Undercover unbelievers

An article from Freakonomics has caused a bit of a stir. A family from the Bible Belt confessed to feigning Christianity in order to fit in. It’s sad. If the church is pressuring people – either overtly or covertly to conform behaviourally without a change in beliefs first then it is not doing its job. The church should be loving and seeking the welfare of non-Christians – and Christian parents should be encouraging their kids to play with the non-Christian kid next door. If they’re so worried about their kid being converted by the friendly neighbourhood atheist then maybe they should reconsider their parenting strategy lest the kid make up their own mind when they reach his/her 20s only to discover a big and scary world of ideas beyond their sheltered milieu.

Here’s a quote from the article…

We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk.

It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality.

I know we Christians want our children to grow up just like us (and I’m not a parent – though I have been a child) but surely we can be just as confident that our children will make the right choice as the agnostic is about theirs… I wonder if there’s a correlation between the parents who don’t believe in vaccination and parents who don’t let their children play with the scary atheists.

This was not the most interesting part of that particular Freakonomics post. Oh no. The most interesting part was this study of the effect of using an open collection plate rather than a closed bag thing – this further demonstrates the hypocrisy inherent in the system.

In these churches, the collection was taken up in a closed bag that was passed along from person to person, row to row. Soetevent got the churches to let him switch things up, randomly substituting an open collection basket for the closed bags over a period of several months. He wanted to know if the added scrutiny changed the donation patterns. (An open basket lets you see how much money has already been collected as well as how much your neighbor puts in.) Indeed it did: with open baskets, the churchgoers gave more money, including fewer small-denomination coins, than with closed bags — although, interestingly, the effect petered out once the open baskets had been around for a while.

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