Whether you’re talking with people about your faith or studying Scripture on your own, you may come across a few frequent questions that seem to disprove Christianity. In Rebecca McLaughlin’s 2019 award-winning book, Confronting Christianity (July’s free book!), she provides an exploration into 12 of these heavy questions including:
- Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?
- Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women?
- How could a loving God allow so much suffering?
- Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?
Through research, personal anecdotes, and Scripture, McLaughlin explores the nuance behind each of these questions plus many more, providing you with the information and resources to feel confident answering these questions.
McLaughlin explains her aim in this excerpt from Confronting Christianity.
In Western Europe and North America, the proportion of people identifying as religious has certainly shrunk. But at a global level, not only has religion failed to decline, but sociologists are now predicting an increasingly religious world.1
While numbers do not tell the whole story, by 2060, the latest projections suggest, Christianity will still be the largest global belief system, having increased slightly, from 31 percent to 32 percent of the world’s population.2
Islam will have grown substantially, from 24 percent to 31 percent. Hinduism is set for marginal decline, from 15 percent to 14 percent, and Buddhism from 7 percent to 5 percent. Judaism will hold stable at 0.2 percent. And by 2060, the proportion of humanity identifying as atheists, agnostics, or “none” will have declined from 16 percent to 13 percent. Yes, declined.3
For those of us who grew up under the secularization hypothesis, this comes as a surprise—pleasant or otherwise. So, what is happening?
Part of the answer lies in the link between theology and biology: Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Jews outbreed the nonreligious.4
Sixty percent of the world’s religiously unaffiliated live in China, where fertility rates have been deliberately controlled. But even within the United States, religiosity correlates with fertility.5
This may be a comfort to secularists, who would rather imagine believers outbreeding them than outthinking them. But the presumed link between education and secularization is weak. While the gaps are closing for younger generations, Jews and Christians are still the most educated groups, with the smallest educational gap between men and women.6
In the United States, while nominally religious people are more likely to declare themselves nonreligious if they are more educated, professing Christians with higher levels of education appear to be just as religious as those with less schooling. Indeed, highly educated Christians are more likely to be weekly churchgoers.7
Furthermore, while many Americans are becoming nonreligious, the traffic flows both ways. A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of Americans raised nonreligious become religious (typically Christian) as adults, while only 20 percent of those raised Protestant switch. If that trend continues, my secular friends are twice as likely to raise children who become Christians as I am to raise children who become nonreligious.8
And the kind of religious beliefs people hold today are not the kind that fit comfortably into the “Coexist” bumper sticker. In North America, partly thanks to immigrant believers, full-blooded Christianity is outcompeting theologically liberal faith.9
But perhaps the biggest shock to the secular system is China, a country that has tried hard to imagine and enforce no religion. Conservative estimates from 2010 put China’s Christian population at over sixty-eight million, representing 5 percent of its vast population.10
But Christianity is spreading so fast that experts believe China could have more Christians than the United States by 2030, and that it could be a majority-Christian country by 2050.11
Fenggang Yang, a leading sociologist of religion in China, argues that we need to undergo a paradigm shift akin to a scientific revolution as we adjust to the failure of the secularization hypothesis.12
Much academic discourse rests on the assumption that religion is withering under the scorching heat of modernization. Secular humanism is seen as the shared ground on which we all can stand. But this framework has crumbled. Today, we must wake up to the fact that Lennon’s dream was a fantasy. What is worse, it was a fantasy fueled by white Western bias and grounded on the assumption that the world would follow where Western Europe led. The question for the next generation is not How soon will religion die out? but Christianity or Islam?
For many, this is a troubling thought. Full-blooded religious belief worries us. We envisage extremism and violence, the stifling of free thought, and the subjugation of women. In some parts of the world, the resurgence of traditionalist Islam has borne this unappealing fruit. But for many raised in the secularizing West, biblical Christianity also triggers moral and intellectual objections: What about science, suffering, and sexuality? What about the Crusades? How can you say there is one true faith? How can you take the Bible literally? Doesn’t the Bible justify slavery? How could a loving God send people to hell?
If you resonate with these questions, this book is for you. I feel their weight. If I give smug, simplistic answers, I have failed. I have spent decades of my life engaging with brilliant friends who have principled reasons for dismissing Christianity. But I have also spent years working with Christian professors at leading secular universities in fields ranging from physics to philosophy. Some grew up in the church. Others encountered Christianity later. All have found that their faith has stood the test of their research and left them more convinced that Christianity represents our tightest grasp on truth and our best hope for the world. This book aims to look closely at important questions through the lenses these friends have given me, and to share that experience with you.
Pick up your copy of Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin—July’s free book of the month from Faithlife Ebooks.
See “Projected Change in Global Population, 2015–2060,” Pew Research Center, March 31, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/pf_17-04-05_projectionsupdate_changepopulation640px/.
See “Size and Projected Growth of Major Religious Groups, 2015–2060,” Pew Research Center, April 3, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/pf-04-05-2017_-projectionsupdate-00-07/.
Global fertility rates are as follows: Muslims (3.1), Christians (2.7), Hindus (2.4), Jews (2.3), unaffiliated (1.7), Buddhists (1.6). See “Total Fertility Rate by Religion, 2010–2015,” Pew Research Center, March 26, 2015, http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/pf_15-04-02_projectionsoverview_totalfertility_640px/.
- “The Changing Religious Composition of the U.S.,” in America’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Center, May 12, 2015.
Pew Research Center Global Religious Survey, 2010, cited by Eleanor Albert, “Christianity in China,” Council on Foreign Relations (website), March 9, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/christianity-china.
- See Antonia Blumberg, “China on Track to Become World’s Largest Christian Country by 2025, Experts Say,” Huffpost, April 22, 2014.
See Fenggang Yang, “Response by Fenggang Yang—Agency-Driven Secularization,” in Peter L. Berger, The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age (Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014), 128.