The persistence of faith

By Dave Henning / February 11, 2024

“Many ask: Why do people feel they need religion?  Perhaps now we see that the way this question is phrased doesn’t explain the persistence of faith.  People believe in God not merely because they feel some emotional need, but because it makes sense of what they see and experience.”- Timothy Keller

“To most humans curiosity about higher things comes naturally, it’s indifference to them that must be learned.”- Mark Lilla, humanities scholar

Today Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 1 of Making Sense of God.   He cites a work by University of London professor Eric Kaufmann.  In Shall the Righteous Inherit the Earth?. Kaufmann argues that secularism erodes moderate faiths.  Faiths that trade on being mainstream and establishment.

However, by contrast, more conservative religious bodies possess higher retention rates.  And they convert more than they lose.  Therefore, Pastor Keller underscores:

“In the United States and Europe, liberal religious bodies will continue to lose members, who are swelling the numbers of the secular and unaffiliated, while traditional, orthodox religions will grow.  This is hard for cultural elites to grasp, since liberal religions are the only ones secular thinkers believe are viable. . . .  This ‘all horizontal and no vertical’ liberal religion plays well to secular audiences, but . . . it is the kind of faith that is dying out most quickly in the world.”

In conclusion, Timothy stresses, our culture’s individualism leads to a decline in inherited religion.  The faith one’s born into.  Thus, religion that wanes comes with one’s assigned national or ethnic identity.

But chosen religion, one based on personal decision, is not in decline.  Because it’s not based solely on your upbringing or your ethnic background.

Finally, Pastor Keller notes:

“You may say, ‘I have no need for God.’  Faith, however, is not produced strictly by emotional need, nor should it be.  Many of the secular thinkers we have cited have rather reluctantly moved toward religion . . . because faith in God makes more sense of life than unbelief.”

Today’s question: What explains your persistence of faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: ” From religion to secularism”

About the author

Dave Henning

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