Thursday, June 19, 2008

Atheist Sloth Ethic

Kairos Journal (which is a very good online resource) has a great article about the simultaneous decline of belief and work ethic in Europe. A 2004 report by Harvard history professor, Niall Ferguson, entitled, "The Atheist Sloth Ethic, or Why Europeans Don't Believe in Work," is cited. If Ferguson is correct in his assessment (which builds on Max Weber's famous thesis in The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism), then "the European present is America's future."

On this same subject, an excellent book that I highly recommend to every Christian over the age of 14 is Wayne Grudem's Business for the Glory of God. It demonstrates the biblical foundation of starting and operating businesses that honor God, bless people and earn profit. In the growing anti-business ethos of our day, it provides a much-needed message for believers.


Eric M Schumacher said...

Good observations. I was thinking along the same lines while reflecting on disaster relief.

Here is what I wrote to our church yesterday:

"One of their neighbors said, I'm an atheist, and I always will be.' Please pray for him. Pray that he would notice that it was Northbrook Baptist and Southern Baptists cleaning their neighborhood. Pray he would notice that the Red Cross and Salvation Army came through the neighborhood providing refreshment for the workers. Four Christian organizations were on the ground helping them. I did not notice the "Atheist Disaster Relief" workers.

[Given the rising popularity of atheistic literature, we should not fail to notice that Christian organizations still provide the bulk of compassion efforts in the face of disaster. We should not be surprised. We have a worldview that sees disaster as a result of the fall and knows of redemption from the curse through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we seek to imitate Him. Atheism must hold that disaster is simply the result of living in a chaotic cosmos, through which chaos creates life. What may they imitate?]"

Tom said...


Good observation. I am so glad the Lord is using you and your church to serve and bless your community in the wake of the flooding. May His grace sustain you and give you more opportunities to declare the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the watching world.

Mark Plus said...

Western Europeans have plenty of wealth to show for their alleged laziness. Refer to the World Bank study "Where Is the Wealth of Nations?" (PDF), which tries to estimate the value of the intangible components of nations' wealth (education, healthcare, rule of law, political stability, etc.) in addition to the stuff you can kick with your foot. This study calculates (figures shown in Appendix 2) that in 2000 Americans had a per capita wealth of $512,000, whereas the French have a a per capita wealth of $468,000, the Danes $575,000, the Germans $496,000, etc. For not working enough by some arbitrary American standard, these countries must have done something right to get their per capita wealth in America's ballpark.

Tom said...


Thanks for dropping by. You will forgive me, I hope, if I am not persuaded by the World Bank's estimation of wealth. Subjective evaluations are just that. What Weber, and now Ferguson, focused on is productivity arising from work, which does not bend so easily to subjective estimates as do the "intangibles."

History provides ample evidence of the relationship between Protestant Reformed Christianity and the creation of wealth through productivity. Where the former has taken root the latter has emerged.


JaaJoe said...

I must suggest to all Christians and Atheist to read this book "The End of Reason" by Dr. Ravi Zacharias. This book forces the reader's mind to do the critical thinking that is so lacking in Christianity today. It should also be considered required reading for the atheist who has never really looked at a logical argument for the existence of God, or the Christian who has never really critically analyzed his own faith. Check out more information on The End of Reason here

One Salient Oversight said...

You will forgive me, I hope, if I am not persuaded by the World Bank's estimation of wealth. Subjective evaluations are just that.

I'm reasonably certain that the World Bank's study is based upon evidence and are anything but subjective.

Tom - just remember that you have readers from many countries who might bristle at being called lazy because they are not Americans.

Europe actually has a very good standard of living - even in countries with high proportions of unbelievers.

I suggest you familiarise yourself with things like the United Nations Human Development Report which is able to quantify measurable statistics on health, education and GDP per capita. You'll see that the US comes in at 12th, behind 8 European countries.

Also... as you know that Calvinism is often misrepresented in modern Christianity, so too is Atheism. I'm not defending atheism in any way here, but to attribute societal decay to it is pulling a very long bow and one not backed up by evidence.

Tom said...

One Sailent Oversight:

Point well-taken. Though I am no fan of the WB I do not pretend to have extensive knowledge of their standards of measurement.