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crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
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Christians love porn, atheists love Jesus
March 2009

This month we learned the difference between Christian and non-Christian attitudes to downloading hardcore pornography over the worldwide cybernet. They buy exactly the same amount over the course of a week, according to an academic paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, but Christians buy 10 per cent less of theirs on Sundays.

This filth should be banned, but so long as itís there we might as well use it. Now we know why they shuffle so restlessly in the pews on Sunday. You shall rest from your labours on the Sabbath day, and operating a keyboard counts as work, even if youíre only using one hand.

Itís quite flattering, in a way, for the world of academia to be so interested in Christiansí private lives. But it doesnít stop there. Weíve been hearing about all kinds of research into the faith recently.

Prof Benny Shanon has a theory to explain those stories about Moses hearing from God, seeing a burning bush that didnít burn up and turning sticks into snakes: he was out of his head.

Shanon, who has extensive experience of the sacred drugs used in South American religion, has found some of them growing in Israel, and put two and two together. His paper, "Biblical Entheogens: A speculative hypothesis", suggests that the Judaeo-Christian ethical tradition is founded on a particularly good trip, and the reason Mosesí face shone when he came down from Mt Sinai is that he was off it. Iíll never read the book of Ezekiel in the same light again – or at all, to be honest.

Getting way out of my depth for a moment, I see that Prof Michael Heller, a Polish priest, has won the Templeton prize for showing how mathematics offers evidence for Godís existence. Reading on, I see itís not so much evidence that God exists, as demolishing the evidence that anything else does, putting God on an equal pegging, plausibility-wise, with jam, Wales and Tom Hanks.

Reading on a bit further, I am forcibly reminded of just how ignorant I am and realize I am going to have to stop paraphrasing stuff I donít understand.

Meanwhile, researchers at New Mexico University have found that the hotter an area of the world is the greater its variety of religions. Why? Hotter areas also have a greater variety of diseases. The more diseases there are around, the more it pays you to shun almost everyone as an infidel.

We are naturally selected by the survival of the splitters. Evolution favours those who favour nobody else, and kills those who are tolerant of unbelievers. Tough but fair.

Justin Barrett of Oxford University says that current research points to the conclusion that childrenís minds are hardwired to believe in God. This is rather frustrating news for us parents, meaning that all the time and effort we put in to indoctrinating our children only achieves what would have happened anyway if we left them alone.

It gives you a whole new level of respect for atheists, though, doesnít it, considering the amount of work they must put in to reprogramme their kids, without even the help of Sunday school or hell.

Or perhaps not. A delightfully nutty survey result from the Pew Forum of all those who call themselves atheists in the US, 21 per cent say they believe in God. Out of those atheist believers, 57 per cent see God as an impersonal force, and 29 per cent believe in a personal God – leaving 4 per cent who, understandably, aren't sure.

A similar survey in Britain found that 12 per cent of atheists believe Jesus rose from the dead, and 7 per cent say he was the Son of God. Ah, how deeply refreshing to see that deep down atheists are as confused, inconsistent and indeed religious as the rest of us.
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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