Confession: some might call me a conference junkie (Google: 4.1 million results).
I’ve always eaten my fill at church… but, from my early days, I’ve found myself hungry for more. Meat and potatoes are the mainline menu for most congregations; to expand your pallet and discover some of the rich – but, still nutritious – options often requires a little effort.
It’s a good thing I was pre-committed to leading all-day sessions for The Master’s Program last week in Orange County; had I been free, the big doin’s at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Frisco, Texas might have caught my attention.
The banner over the two-day event is worth saluting: “Finding the Creator through Creation.” We’ve got an outpost for TMP in that neighborhood; maybe I could have maximized myself in North Dallas and stopped into the convention…
Wait: the group behind the event is the Flat Earth International Conference. This was their third annual gathering; about 600 folks came. They aren’t wacko; they just believe that space does not exist, the world sits still and the moon landing was faked. The jury is out, for them, on gravity: no one has ever seen it. Flat Earthers – most of them faith-based – are of one-mind. I’ll miss their 2020 meeting.
Why do people believe what they believe?
University of Oxford developmental psychologist Dr. Olivera Petrovich has spent years researching a single question: Are children predisposed to belief in a transcendent being?
In a cross-cultural study of British and Japanese children who were shown photographs of manmade and natural objects and then asked to explain how those objects came into existence, children predominantly chose the theological explanation. According to Dr. Petrovich,
The pattern of responding among Japanese children is highly significant in this context seeing that those children live in a culture that does not in any way encourage a belief in God as creator. Yet, the most common reply given by Japanese preschoolers about natural objects’ origins was “Kamisama [God]! God made it.” Whilst there is growing research evidence that children from across different religious and cultural backgrounds consistently attribute to god the existence of natural objects, what is so interesting about the Japanese participants is that this particular causal inference is not a product of their education but a natural development in their understanding of the world.
The tenets of a specific religion must be taught, but her research strongly suggests that God has made children ready to receive that instruction. By contrast, unbelief is unnatural. Dr. Petrovich says, “Atheism is definitely an acquired position.” You have to work at eliminating God from your thinking.
You won’t miss heaven because you believe the earth is flat, but you will if you don’t believe that the God of heaven created the universe and holds it on His terms. Paul explored the question of belief before Dr. Petrovich did: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Interesting, isn’t it? Kids “get” God before their minds are hijacked by grown-ups whose decision to reject Him makes them fools…