Paying the Bill for Atheism

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that disagreements over religion never hurt anyone. If my neighbor says there is no god, Jefferson said, "it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Well, with all due respect, Jefferson was wrong. Atheism does pick my pocket--and yours, too. As a case in point, Harvard School of Public Health is gearing up for a new 10-year study that will cost upward of $80 million. Researchers will study children across several age groups to identify the causes of crime. 80 million dollars is a pretty hefty price tag--and all to search for something we already know. That's right. If we're Christians, we already know what causes crime. The Bible teaches that human beings are morally responsible, capable of choosing between right and wrong. Choosing to do wrong is what the Bible calls sin. So if we believe God's Word, we don't need another multimillion-dollar study on the cause of crime. As the book of James puts it, people sin when they give in to their evil desires. This biblical principle used to be widely accepted. But Western society has moved away from its biblical moorings, and devised a new, humanistic theory of human behavior. Humanism denies the reality of sin; instead, it says, human nature is inherently good. And if human nature is good, then the cause of evil and crime must be something outside the individual--something in the environment: Crime must result from ghettos and poverty. Human beings aren't morally depraved, in the humanistic view, they're just economically deprived. This was the vision that underlay the effort to solve crime by a massive War on Poverty. But the War on Poverty hasn't solved crime--as the Los Angeles riots so recently proved--and in recent years a more biblical view is re-emerging. Two psychologists, Samenow and Yochelson, spent 17 years studying criminals. They discovered that criminal behavior could not be tied to any environmental causes--not ghettos or poverty or any of the other conventional explanations. Instead, they found that crime results from a conscious decision. People commit crimes when they make wrong moral choices. Whether the street thug or the white collar criminal, both make exactly the same choice. Psychologists Samenow and Yochelson ended their study with a startling conclusion: The only way a criminal can change, they said, is by a conscious shift to a new way of thinking--what they called a "conversion." It's an apt description. Here at Prison Fellowship we've seen thousands of offenders turn from a life of crime through a conversion to Jesus Christ. So I have a proposal for Harvard--one that might even save $80 million dollars. Walk through prison hallways with some of our Prison Fellowship volunteers, and talk to inmates who have experienced that conversion. They'll be happy to tell Harvard researchers exactly how they were drawn into a life of crime. And then to explain the real solution: a conversion to a new life by the power of God.


Chuck Colson



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