If God were to exist, wouldn’t you expect there to be a huge benefit to those who follow and obey him? Why, instead, do we see the opposite?
Those are good questions, and many Bible-believing Christians have positive answers to them: yes, there are positive benefits; but the reason that we see the opposite is because of the depravity of man.
Marshall either doesn’t countenance those answers or doesn’t understand what they mean in the context of such a biblical worldview because that leads him to quote from something that has a dead link:
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9).
The obvious problem with such a statement: correlation does not equal causation. It is a logical fallacy. Also, there is no notation of what types of “religion” are being referenced, because if one were to watch the news today, they might conclude that those who practice Islam fit such a bill judging by what is going on in Iraq and Syria with ISIS, but that would be disparaging this Muslims who practice their religion peacefully, daring to decry what those they claim as “abusers of Islam” are doing. Also, while many people may claim to belong to a certain religion, the Christian religion has an objective standard that is revealed in its Scriptures, that can demonstrate that such may not be the case.
He then quotes from an article by Sam Harris from 2006, An Atheist Manifesto, which is littered with straw man misrepresentations of people of faith, belittling them as “superstitious”. Now, while I will personally agree that there are many superstitious people in the Christian religion, the religion itself is not, especially if we go by the definition of superstition,
a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
and if we take that particular definition of it into mind, then even atheism, especially an atheism that is built upon the foundation of Darwinian evolution, which is heavily dependent upon chance, would, by default, fall into that category. Even the second definition that is offered doesn’t fit,
an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition.
The beginning of one of the greatest collections of proverbs begins with this statement,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
Where, in the same book, scientific observation and research is encouraged,
Go to the ant, O sluggard;consider her ways, and be wise.(Proverbs 6:5 ESV)
Just one other note, as I close this response, which is somewhat dual, since Marshall’s draws so heavily from Harris’ article, there is a link to an article which shows individual giving toward “charities”, the graph requires some thought when one looks at it. It shows nations like Norway, Sweden, the UK, and Denmark outgiving people from the United States, and drawing the conclusion that atheists (or secularists) are more generous. Let’s consider why this might be a false conclusion to draw from the graph. That particular graph focuses on individual giving. There are considerably more people in the US than in those markedly smaller nations, more people can give less money to the same cause, thus spreading the load. But there is a companion graph that shows the US actually designates more of its ODA to developing nations. However, the article seems to focus on government aid (such as the charitable arms of the United Nations), such outreaches are often fraught with inefficiency and corruption. Private and religious charities seem to be excluded from the charts, such organizations often excel at putting the money of their donors where it matters most, doing so efficiently and effectively, even though they have considerably less money to use.
Essentially, Marshall’s argument stems from incomplete data and a lack of critical examination of the data, and not actually from religion, thus it can be disregarded as an invalid argument.