Thursday, May 11, 2017

Too Rational? A Response to Losing Their Religion

This week KUTV released an article titled Losing their Religion: Millenials, including Utahns, leave Church. As its title implies, it talks about how many millennials are identifying as "nones", meaning that they do not affiliate with any Church. It should be kept in mind that those that identify as nones are not by definition atheists; the group includes agnostics, skeptics, deists, and others who may hold some form of belief in a God but are turned off by organized religion.

In the article, a woman named Shelley is interviewed and quoted as saying: "I feel like I’m way too logical now to be religious." Shelley had been a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but now considers herself a secular humanist.

Um, what?

First, let me be clear that I have no problem with a person being an atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, or anything else. But to say that you are too logical to be religious is a bit of a non-sequitur. First, if we take Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead (two of the premier logicians of all time) seriously, we will understand that logic is reducible to mathematics in some sense, so you can't be too logical to be religious (Whitehead was religious for instance).

Second, Shelley has alot of explaining to do if she thinks that those who are religious are not as logical as she is (for all we know, Shelley has not even taken a basic logic class). After all, she certainly doesn't think that St. Thomas Aquinas, William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantiga, Richard Swinburne, Francis Collins, Blake Ostler, Richard Bushman, and others are not logical does she? She gives us no reason to think that a person who has advanced training in logic can't be a devoutly religious person, and as the authors I mention have shown in their published work, they do not leave logic at the door when they discuss the things of God.

The problem with nones who are also millennials is that they tend to (though certainly not always) not be well read in the things they talk about. When I have talked to some of my fellow millennials about my religious beliefs, they assert things such as "science has buried God", which shows their ignorance of the scientific method. Science is a method of inquiry and works only when a person makes a claim that is both verifiable and falsifiable. The question of whether or not God exists, or whether there are objective moral values are beyond the scope of science, so when a person asserts that science has buried God we can assume they don't know much about science or religion.

The post mentions that millenials are actually not lazy, and they do their research. But when you click on the link, it takes us to a Mormon Stories Podcast episode where the interviewees offer opinions about why people leave Mormonism. While the episode is entertaining, the people interviewed are not researchers, so we do not need to take them seriously.

The point I am trying to make here is this: logic and reason can lead a person to faith or away from faith. C.S. Lewis is a classic example of the former, Bertrand Russell an example of the latter. There are many varied reasons why people leave religion, but we should not conclude it is because they became more rational.


  1. Very clear and informative-well done. Your posts on Facebook and on here are always very engaging. Question about your choice of length. Do you look to keep your blog posts short and to the point or do you write lengthier posts as the circumstance requires?

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for your compliment and praise. As you stated, it depends on the circumstance. Some things are simple such as this post, others such as the ones I have done on the CES Letter and the Virgin Birth require longer posts. I do try to get to the point however because I realize that people are not generally going to listen to long rants.

  2. Tarik,

    Like Shelley, the too-logical millennial you mention, I consider myself a secular humanist, and cannot at this point believe in any god. But, I appreciate this post. I think there are a lot of atheists who would benefit from taking this message in. The moment an atheist declares that God does not exist, that logic precludes belief in God, or something similar, they have made a claim that requires extraordinary justification, because as far as I can tell, these types of claims are unfounded. Shelley probably had no idea how arrogant her statement sounds (I'm assuming they quoted her accurately). It's really too bad this happens. I think statements like this from atheists shut down a lot of dialogue between believers and non-believers that might otherwise take place.

    Thanks for the post,