But there’s more. For Schaeffer, America’s hawkish tendencies and aggressive foreign policy directly relate to our fundamentalist reading of the Bible: “Thank you St. John (or whomever) loon was the author of the ‘book’/acid-trip of Revelation, for giving us a deluded roadmap so that the Americans who can’t find France on a map can get their foreign ‘policy’ marching orders direct from a ‘prophet’ huddling in a cave alone with his odd brain 2000 years ago.”
Aside from the fact that it is sad to see someone like Frank Schaffer, who once held to evangelical Christian beliefs, then Greek Orthodox beliefs, turn into such a Bible mocker, it is more than a stretch – shall we call it a leap of incredulity? – to claim that America fought (or is fighting) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, because of a literal belief in hell and the Scriptures.
Interestingly, a study “appearing in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, found that criminal activity is lower in societies where people’s religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent. A country where many more people believe in heaven than in hell, for example, is likely to have a much higher crime rate than one where these beliefs are about equal. The finding surfaced from a comprehensive analysis of 26 years of data involving 143,197 people in 67 countries.”
According to Azim F. Shariff, professor of psychology and director of the Culture and Morality Lab at the University of Oregon, “The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation’s rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation’s rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects. . . . The finding is consistent with controlled research we’ve done in the lab, but here shows a powerful ‘real world’ effect on something that really affects people -- crime.”
Here in America, belief in hell remains prevalent, and a 2003 poll by George Barna indicated that 71% of the population “said that there is such a thing as Hell.” At the same time, “just one-half of 1% expect to go to Hell upon their death.” So, hell is real, but none of us are going there!
Putting aside our religious differences, perhaps the questions we need to ask ourselves are these: 1) Are there lasting consequences to our actions? 2) Will there be an ultimate judgment and final justice? 3) If so, how should we live today?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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