LDS lifestyle

Latter-day Saints who live their faith have many sociological benefits. We should manage expectations, forgive others and ourselves, while doing our best.


The article — PENN Research Shows that Mormons are Generous and Active in Helping Others — can be found here.

“Called to Serve: The Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saints” is the largest and most detailed study of its kind.  Researchers surveyed 2,644 active Mormons in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Michigan, Utah and California.

Overall, researchers found that members of the LDS Church are the most “prosocial” members of American society. 

“Regardless of where they live, they are very generous with their time and money,” Cnaan, an expert in faith-based social services and the lead researcher, said. “Through a theology of obedience and sacrifice and a strong commitment to tithing and service, Latter-day Saints are model citizens.”

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An average American Latter-day Saint provides almost 430 hours of volunteer labor annually.  This equates to approximately 35 hours per month.   In comparison, the average American volunteer provides about four hours of volunteering per month. 

Latter-day Saints serve mostly within their wards. Much less time was spent serving in the community. But, even in Mormons only served outside their ward callings, they’d still equal the national average of all Americans.

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The study also reports on tithing. Nobody takes tithing more seriously than Latter-day Saints. This was also interesting:

“The study shows 48 percent of the respondents reported donating money through secular giving.  On average, a Latter-day Saint donates $1,171 annually to social causes outside the church. “

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Another study – 5 Reasons why Mormons are Happier — makes valuable observations.

1. A pro-social orientation

“A lot of research suggests that Mormons are the most pro–social group in America. Active Mormons report that they volunteer an average of 35.6 hours per month, including church callings but not missions. Even if you take out religious volunteering (callings and other church service), Mormons still volunteer as much as the national average. Also, Mormons donate more than twice as much (9.3%) of their income as the national average of people who give to charity (4%) and more than four times as much as the national average overall (2%). Excluding tithing, Mormons still contribute a large amount to charity: $2,024 annually.”

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2. A focus on family

“Mormonism has a large emphasis on Family Home Evening, family prayer, family meals, and family rituals. A review of 32 publications suggests that family rituals and routines are associated with childhood health, academic achievement, and improved marital satisfaction. Also, one surprising finding is that a study at Emory University showed that knowledge of family history greatly predicted a child’s psychological health.

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Researchers found higher self-esteem, lower anxiety, and lower behavior problems in kids that know their family’s stories. This could be because they develop a sense of identity that’s larger than just themselves. They’re embedded in a larger, intergenerational context. Knowing that your great-grandma was able to cross the plains after her husband died could give you a greater amount of grit and self-determination.”

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3. Purpose and meaning

“There is a substantial relationship between an individual having purpose and meaning in life and their well-being. Mormon doctrine offers its members an explanation for the purpose of life. The belief that life is a temporary learning experience to help God’s children develop lasting joy may help Mormons have positive emotion, character development, resilience, grit, and meaning.”

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4. Autonomy and agency

The motivation that drives behavior has a significant impact on well-being. Behavior that is self-motivated results in more positive outcomes. Mormon doctrine holds that part of the purpose of life is to exercise agency and learn to choose between good and evil. Mormons are taught that compulsion is not God’s way, and Mormon doctrine emphasizes agency, autonomy, and free-will.”

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5. Physical health

“There’s a lot of research, of course, on the negative consequences of smoking and drinking. The Word of Wisdom includes a range of healthy behaviors, and also supports the general idea that there’s a deep connection between our bodies and our minds. Positive psychology research calls this thesomatopsychic principle, that the body and mind are so inseparably connected that it’s misleading to regard them as two separate entities.

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What positive psychology is saying about health is not that different from what Mormons hear in church about the body being a temple. This emphasis on health may explain in part why Mormons have lower risk for cardiovascular disease and live, on average, 5 to 10 years longer than other people. Periodic fasting actually plays a part too. Even controlling for the facts that Mormons don’t drink or smoke, researchers attribute this lower disease rate to periodic fasting.

I then asked Hunter about conflicting research that shows that even though Mormons in general rank as very happy, Utah (which is nearly 70% Mormon) has a high suicide rate and a lot of women on antidepressants.

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How do those two facts square with Utah as one of the happiest places in the USA?

“Research shows that some of the happiest places in the world also have the highest suicide rates,” Hunter explains. “Some people think that this paradox is explained by relative comparisons of utility. People compare their happiness to other people’s. It may feel particularly painful to be unhappy when everyone around you is happy. There’s also a lot of research that talks about elevation and suicide.” (See here for a brief discussion of the role of altitude and mountains in suicide rates.)

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And while Hunter acknowledges that the antidepressant rate is high among Utahns, she says it’s important to put that in a larger context.

“It’s possible that Mormons are not self-medicating with alcohol and drugs like some people do to combat depression. In addition, Mormons are more likely to seek medical help, evidenced by the fact that Utah ranks high for people seeking prescriptions for other things like thyroid medication or anticonvulsants or anti-rheumatics. It’s not just for antidepressants.”

Also, Mormon women have more children and are thus more susceptible to post-partum depression. They also have a higher rate of women who are stay-at-home mothers, a life situation that puts women at risk for depression, at least for a time.

Objections to the Resurrection with Gary Habermas

Frank Turek raises some significant objections to the resurrection of Christ, but his guest is none other than the foremost expert in the topic, Dr. Gary Habermas.

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They discussed common objections:

  • everyone hallucinated: agnostic scholars support the evidences supporting groups seeing Jesus
  • extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence: not true. Simple evidence can build a case. It’s not extraordinary to say someone is alive.
  • miracles don’t happen: ask them if they have proof naturalism is true. They don’t.
  • don’t all religions have resurrection and miracle claims? – only Jesus has sources for resurrection and miracles within 1-2 years after his life
  • why doesn’t the resurrected Jesus appear right now? What good would God gain by coercing belief?

Gary finishes with a discussion on doubt. Most doubt is not factual. It’s emotional.

Gary describes in the video below his minimal-facts approach to the resurrection. He only uses the New Testament and other data that atheist scholars agree to. From that agreed-upon data he can still argue for the resurrection.

Mosiah-first Translation

Still Image from “Seer Stones and the Translation of the Book of Mormon” via LDS Church History.

Fascinating details below and found here.

New research strongly demonstrates that Joseph Smith started the translation of our current Book of Mormon with the Book of Mosiah. This is because when the 116 pages were lost, Joseph Smith simply started translating from where he left off, in Mosiah.

This provides strong evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon, because there are hundreds of references in the Book of Mormon to earlier content (content that Joseph Smith hadn’t even written yet). So either Joseph Smith was the most talented author of all time, or he was simply translating an ancient record. Watch here!

Additional evidence of a Mosiah-first translation: When Pages Collide: Dissecting the Words of Mormon

When Pages Collide: Dissecting the Words of Mormon

Careful readers of the Book of Mormon have probably found verses 12–18 of the Words of Mormon to be a bit of a puzzle. For stylistic and other reasons, they do not really fit with verses 1–11, so commentators have tried to explain their presence as a sort of “bridge” or “transition” that Mormon wrote to connect the record of the small plates with his abridgment from the large plates.

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This paper proposes a different explanation: Rather than being a bridge into the book of Mosiah, these verses were originally part of the book of Mosiah and should be included with it.

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This article presents both documentary and textual evidence to show that (1) Joseph Smith had translated some text that he did not give to Martin Harris (the lost 116 pages), (2) Oliver Cowdery, Joseph’s scribe, copied from the original manuscript onto the printer’s manuscript at the beginning of the book of Mosiah the chapter designation “Chapter III,” (3) verses 12–18 of Words of Mormon do not use the first-person pronoun “I” and do not speak of the small plates, as verses 1–11 do, and (4) the book of Mosiah begins abruptly, without an introductory heading and without any mention of the person for whom the book was likely named (Benjamin’s father, Mosiah).

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These and other pieces of evidence support the idea that the last seven verse in Words of Mormon were actually the last verses of what should have been Mosiah chapter 2, but chapter 1 and most of chapter 2 must have been part of the 116 pages lost by Martin Harris.

The King James Version of the Bible (and the Book of Mormon)

Consider watching these YouTube videos on the reasons King James decided to authorize another bible at a time many other translations were available.

A five-minute summary:

Another short summary:

This is a series of detailed videos on the KJV

King James organized a committee of around 50 scholars into six separate subcommittees. They had very specific guidelines.

Usually committees and beaucracies don’t create good ideas, and certainly not masterpieces.

Who were the translators? Noted scholars, politicians, editors, adventurers, preachers, a drunk, and others were on the list. A broad composition of society.

The essence of the KJV was in fusing the two wings of the religious divide in England. The Puritans and the Anglicans.

Since many in England at the time were illiterate, the final revising committee read aloud the scriptures before approving them. All in England could hear and be inspired. Not all could read.

The text of the Bishops’ Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops’ Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.

Forty unbound copies of the 1602 edition of the Bishops’ Bible were specially printed so that the agreed changes of each committee could be recorded in the margins.

A video on the Bishop’s Bible:

The entire documentary is found below. The fourth and final in the series can be found at the 45-minute mark below:

This video discusses the many bibles that predated the KJV.  The interview takes place in a Christian’s library where many of these remarkable bibles are preserved.

Is the KJV the best translation? Is it the most accurate translation?

Myths: that surround the KJV

Errors found in the KJV. Latter-day Saints don’t believe the process was perfect. Neither do traditional Christian scholars. After all, the texts the KJV drew from had errors themselves.

The progression of Bibles:

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Applications of the KJV to the Book of Mormon. A few thougths by Hugh Nibley on what the KJV of Isaiah are doing in the Book of Mormon:

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LDS scholar Hugh Nibley wrote the following in response to a letter sent to the editor of the Church News section of the Deseret News. His response was printed in the Church News in 1961:[11]

[One of the] most devastating argument[s] against the Book of Mormon was that it actually quoted the Bible. The early critics were simply staggered by the incredible stupidity of including large sections of the Bible in a book which they insisted was specifically designed to fool the Bible-reading public. They screamed blasphemy and plagiarism at the top of their lungs, but today any biblical scholar knows that it would be extremely suspicious if a book purporting to be the product of a society of pious emigrants from Jerusalem in ancient times did not quote the Bible. No lengthy religious writing of the Hebrews could conceivably be genuine if it was not full of scriptural quotations.

…to quote another writer of Christianity Today [magazine],[12] “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” and that it quotes, not only from the Old Testament, but also the New Testament as well.

As to the “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” we first ask, “How else does one quote scripture if not bodily?” And why should anyone quoting the Bible to American readers of 1830 not follow the only version of the Bible known to them?

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Actually the Bible passages quoted in the Book of Mormon often differ from the King James Version, but where the latter is correct there is every reason why it should be followed. When Jesus and the Apostles and, for that matter, the Angel Gabriel quote the scriptures in the New Testament, do they recite from some mysterious Urtext? Do they quote the prophets of old in the ultimate original? Do they give their own inspired translations?

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No, they do not. They quote the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament prepared in the third century B.C. Why so? Because that happened to be the received standard version of the Bible accepted by the readers of the Greek New Testament. When “holy men of God” quote the scriptures it is always in the received standard version of the people they are addressing.

We do not claim the King James Version or the Septuagint to be the original scriptures—in fact, nobody on earth today knows where the original scriptures are or what they say. Inspired men have in every age have been content to accept the received version of the people among whom they labored, with the Spirit giving correction where correction was necessary.

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Since the Book of Mormon is a translation, “with all its faults,” into English for English-speaking people whose fathers for generations had known no other scriptures but the standard English Bible, it would be both pointless and confusing to present the scriptures to them in any other form, so far as their teachings were correct.

What is thought to be a very serious charge against the Book of Mormon today is that it, a book written down long before New Testament times and on the other side of the world, actually quotes the New Testament! True, it is the same Savior speaking in both, and the same Holy Ghost, and so we can expect the same doctrines in the same language.

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But what about the “Faith, Hope and Charity” passage in Moroni 7:45? Its resemblance to 1 Corinthians 13:] is undeniable. This particular passage, recently singled out for attack in Christianity Today, is actually one of those things that turn out to be a striking vindication of the Book of Mormon. For the whole passage, which scholars have labeled “the Hymn to Charity,” was shown early in this century by a number of first-rate investigators working independently (A. Harnack, J. Weiss, R. Reizenstein) to have originated not with Paul at all, but to go back to some older but unknown source: Paul is merely quoting from the record.

Now it so happens that other Book of Mormon writers were also peculiarly fond of quoting from the record. Captain Moroni, for example, reminds his people of an old tradition about the two garments of Joseph, telling them a detailed story which I have found only in [th’ Alabi of Persia,] a thousand-year-old commentary on the Old Testament, a work still untranslated and quite unknown to the world of Joseph Smith. So I find it not a refutation but a confirmation of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon when Paul and Moroni both quote from a once well-known but now lost Hebrew writing.

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Now as to [the] question, “Why did Joseph Smith, a nineteenth century American farm boy, translate the Book of Mormon into seventeenth century King James English instead of into contemporary language?”

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The first thing to note is that the “contemporary language” of the country-people of New England 130 years ago was not so far from King James English. Even the New England writers of later generations, like Webster, Melville, and Emerson, lapse into its stately periods and “thees and thous” in their loftier passages.

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Furthermore, the Book of Mormon is full of scripture, and for the world of Joseph Smith’s day, the King James Version was the Scripture, as we have noted; large sections of the Book of Mormon, therefore, had to be in the language of the King James Version—and what of the rest of it? That is scripture, too.

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One can think of lots of arguments for using King James English in the Book of Mormon, but the clearest comes out of very recent experience. In the past decade, as you know, certain ancient nonbiblical texts, discovered near the Dead Sea, have been translated by modern, up-to-date American readers. I open at random a contemporary Protestant scholar’s modern translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and what do I read? “For thine is the battle, and by the strength of thy hand their corpses were scattered without burial. Goliath the Hittite, a mighty man of valor, thou didst deliver into the hand of thy servant David.”[13]

Obviously the man who wrote this knew the Bible, and we must not forget that ancient scribes were consciously archaic in their writing, so that most of the scriptures were probably in old-fashioned language the day they were written down. To efface that solemn antique style by the latest up-to-date usage is to translate falsely.

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At any rate, Professor Burrows, in 1955 (not 1835!), falls naturally and without apology into the language of the King James Bible. Or take a modern Jewish scholar who purposely avoids archaisms in his translation of the Scrolls for modern American readers: “All things are inscribed before Thee in a recording script, for every moment of time, for the infinite cycles of years, in their several appointed times. No single thing is hidden, naught missing from Thy presence.”[14] Professor Gaster, too, falls under the spell of our religious idiom. [A more recent example of the same phenomenon in the twenty-first century is discussed here.]

By frankly using that idiom, the Book of Mormon avoids the necessity of having to be redone into “modern English” every thirty or forty years. If the plates were being translated for the first time today, it would still be King James English!”

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From FAIR Mormon on the topic of the use of the KJV by other scholars in their translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls:

“Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.

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Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.

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The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated.

Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Since there is no such thing as a “perfect” translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.”

THE ISAIAH PASSAGES IN THE BOOK OF MORMON A NON ALIGNED TEXT

The above title (and link) refers to a 2001 Master’s thesis. This thesis reviews the Isaiah variants found in these four texts: the Masoretic Text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), the Qumran (Q) or Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and the Book of Mormon
MT, LXX, Q, and BoM Isaiah.

Nearly 80 pages of tables demonstrate the differences in Isaiah verses between the four versions.

This link shares the research done by John Tvedtnes: Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon.

Curiously Unique: Joseph Smith as Author of the Book of Mormon

Brian Hales produced a wonderful accumulation of information about the Book of Mormon, including data on the following:


– Author Age
– Author Education
– Book word count
– Book complexity
– Composition timeline
– Composition methodology

Listen to the podcast below:

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/jnlartaudio/hales-v31-2019-pp151-190-AUDIO.mp3

Myths of Religious Violence

Dr. Benjamin Wiker wrote the following:

One of the enduring myths of the secular state is that religion is so dangerous, so volatile, so likely to burst into conflagrations of violence, that the only protection we have from societal destruction is the erection of a wall that separates religion from the state.

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We’ve all heard the story, and in fact, having also heard endless tales of horror about the great religious wars—especially the French Wars of Religion and the Thirty Years War—we might be strongly inclined to believe the myth.

Even my calling it a myth seems out of place. Isn’t it true—in fact, a truism—that wherever religion and politics mix, it is like gasoline and a match? Isn’t that what history teaches us?

No. History actually teaches us two things.

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First, as William Cavanaugh so powerfully argues in his Myth of Religious Violence, when we take a closer look at the 16th and 17th century wars of religion we find that differences between Catholics and Protestants, and Protestants and other Protestants, were secondary to the aims of the emerging nation-states and various political and dynastic intrigues. Simply put, the main cause of these wars was political, not religious.

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How can that be? If religious differences were the main cause of these bloody conflicts, Cavanaugh maintains, then we would expect to find that they were invariably fought along neat denominational lines.

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What we actually find is Catholic emperors attacking popes, Catholic French kings attacking Catholic emperors, Protestant kings and princes siding with Catholic kings against other Protestants, Lutheran and Catholic kings uniting against Catholic emperors, Protestant Huguenot nobles and Catholic nobles in France uniting against both Catholic and Protestant Huguenot commoners who likewise united against the nobles, Protestant and Catholic nobles in France uniting against their Catholic king, Protestants rejecting the Protestant Union (the coalition of German Protestant states) even while some Catholics were siding with it, Lutheran princes adamantly supporting the rights of a Catholic emperor, Catholic France supporting Protestant princes in Germany, the Dutch Calvinists helping the Catholic king to repress uprisings of French Calvinists, a Lutheran leading the Catholic imperial army, and mercenaries of every religious stripe selling themselves to the highest Catholic or Protestant bidder.

This scribble drawing below indicates inconsistent, unpredictable relationships. Catholics attack Catholics. Catholics and Protestants attack Protestants, etc. These facts of history don’t line up as critics would like in their oversimplified, flawed views of history.

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And that is only a very quick overview of the examples provided, at great length, by Cavanaugh. A careful, unbiased study of the so-called religious wars yields the rather surprising result that they were not religious wars. They were political wars that both ignored religious differences when the more important political aims demanded either cooperation with religious opponents or antagonism to those sharing the same religious beliefs, and used religious differences when they would serve political purposes.

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That’s the first history lesson. The second is equally important, and related to the first. As Cavanaugh makes equally clear, the secular state needed (and still needs) people to believe the story that religion is the cause of violence because this belief allows for the actual creation of the secular state.

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The secular state is what emerges when religion is forcibly removed from the public square through the powers of the state. The myth of religious violence justifies the removal of religion, and it is through that very removal that the state achieves secularization.

Short segment on the topic:

Longer speech:

Politics and Religion

Dr. David Campbell, Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at Notre Dame, in his recent lecture, ‘When God and Caesar Meet’, discussed how the large exodus from religion in today’s culture has often occurred because religion is increasingly associated with one political party.

Campbell points out this especially occurs with those in the political center and center left.

Another point:

How the West Really Lost God

I’ll share a few videos about demographics and the interrelationships between faith and family. No faith often results in no marriage and no children. No marriage often results in no faith. The 2 — marriage and faith — rise and fall together.

Mary reports that Scandinavia — the most secular region in the world — has both little faith and few families. 40-50% of homes have a single occupant. And these are not all widows and widowers. Few are marrying.

Faith and family formation seems to go hand in hand.

Mary disputes the notion of believers vs unbelievers. All believers are people of some faith. Just what do they put their faith in?

This video is a more recent speech by Mary Eberstadt. She discusses the competition paganism — a rival faith — feels toward religion.

What Difference Does it Make if There’s no God?

Our Christian brothers — especially William Lane Craig — share wonderful insight. No atheists can live within a framework of their own world view.

Their world view is that there is no ultimate meaning. They may create a veneer of meaning for this life, but that is artificial and not lasting. Atheism is fundamentally unlivable.