But the most intriguing result to date, and the one which has raised the most ire, is about the averages within religions. There are no significant difference between them. None. The world average is 26.30 ±0.33. Muslims are at 26.40 ±0.38, Catholics at 26.37±0.25, Protestants at 26.03±0.41, Hindus at 26.31±0.23, Buddhists at 26.41±0.17. Secular people land right in the middle at 26.30±0.51. Atheists are the only ‘religion’ which is not within the normal variation; they’re just barely below it at 25.95±0.21. Everyone, especially the Atheists, disputed this result. But it was Solomon himself who was the lead author on “The Goodness of the Religions – A Global Study,” and the science was bulletproof.
This homogeneity has led to attacks by the Universalitsts and Relativists that the religions are all the same. They say that the Solomon Scale finally proves what they’ve been contending all these years. I’ll admit when I first read the Solomon et. al. paper, it was hard to accept. I struggled with it for a long time. I found this data hard to reconcile with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive power of Christ. But since first reading it, I reread Mere Christianity. And I realized something. Lewis makes the clear and powerful point that Christianity is, as he puts it, “not about making nice men, but new ones.” Beyond this, he proposes a theory there what we can now test empirically.
He claims that Christianity is indeed the best way of reforming men, but to do a proper experiment, it must be prospective. A cross-sectional study tells you nothing about the long-term and individual moral trajectories of a group. I was inspired by his book to write a grant to evaluate: is Christianity any better at improving the goodness of a person than any other system?
You may ask how I can fairly evaluate this, being that I am emotionally tied to the answer. I’ll answer that I have faith in Christ, and that though I believe His work to be scientifically verifiable, it is not inconsistent with His character to work in secret. But my duty is first to Truth, His Truth, whatever it may be. Not to my theories or those of my favorite 20th century theologian.
My lab won the NIH grant to do this study. After seeing the great value of Goodness Science, they’ve eased up on the anti-religious prejudices that they once held (and probably gained a few Solomons in so doing). We are doing a prospective study of new converts to the major religions and will follow their Goodness over 20 years. We have completed the first year of the experiment, and our paper was just admitted to Science for publication. It was a great and humbling experience for our work to be so well received by the thought leaders of the day.