Survey among the students of the Medical University - Varna
Although not representative for all students in Varna, the survey is telling of the beliefs and convictions of what is considered an elite Bulgarian youths, the Medical students. The survey was conducted among 65 participants. The questions allow more than one answer.
First, the big picture. According to the biggest group of students, morality is relative and every person defines what is good and what is bad (49%). A person creates his own significance (25%) or it’s based on the fact that they are evolved beings (26%). They create their meaning and values on their own and live according to them (53%). After death they reincarnate (44%) but it is also possible for them to cease to exist (30%). For many one discovers truth by experimenting with data through the five senses (29%). And, finally, God is an impersonal power, which exists in everyone and everything.
Therefore, we could say that most of the students are postmodern relativists (about 35%), followed by the group of the atheists (30%). Among the first group there are many who are pantheists (29%), and in the latter – people who tend to be nihilistic (11%).
Another interesting observation is that, although the atheists comprise a big group, when asked directly whether God exists, only 6% say ‘no’. Does this mean that only they are ‘pure nihilists’? This would correspond better to the bigger picture of religious beliefs in Bulgaria.
This “worldview incongruity” among the answers to different questions is characteristic for most of the students. For example, for one respondent truth is knowable through yoga, meditation, visualization and the Bible (!?) but on the other hand, since we are a product of aimless evolution, we can’t trust our brains, therefore there is no truth! For another, man is an evolved animal but this is not a problem why he shouldn’t create his own meaning and experiment with data, received from his senses. For another one truth is subjective but at the same time he objectively states that all moral misuses are a result of being out of harmony with nature, that there is reincarnation and that God is the Creator of the universe!
How high does Christianity rank among Varna Medical students? Whole 30% claim that God is the creator of the universe and that he is concerned and involved in his creation. On the other hand, only 9.4% believe that there are absolute moral norms given by God. Obviously the fact that God is concerned doesn’t mean for them that he has the right to interfere in their lives.
In the same group 13% are convinced that they have significance and dignity as being created by God’s image. Less people think that they need God’s forgiveness (6.9%). The theme of the sinful human nature is not among the favorite even for those who theoretically believe in God of the Bible. Only 13% believe in the Judgement Day and in heaven and hell. Truth is discovered through the senses, reason and God’s revelation only for 8% of them.
It is necessary to note that nowhere in the Survey the term “Orthodox” or “Christian” has been used. If we had inserted the first term in some of the answers (for example to the question of truth) probably more students would have given the answer that corresponds with the Christian worldview. Most probably these 30% of students who believe that God is concerned about the universe think of themselves as Orthodox Christians because, unlike the Catholics and the Protestants, for this group it is characteristic that they have poor knowledge of the Bible and thus a syncretistic approach to creating their worldview.
The following examples illustrate my point. On one hand, someone may believe that they are created in God’s image but on the other hand for them the Holy Scriptures are not a source for knowing the truth, nor a basis for finding meaning and moral norms. For them there is no life after death either. Another one claims that God exists, truth is known through the senses, reason and the Holy Scriptures but morality is relative, we create our own meaning and after death we cease to exist. A third one states that God exists, there is judgement, heaven and hell, but also reincarnation! God exists, He has created the absolute moral values, we are created in God’s image and need forgiveness, but there is no heaven or hell, nor supernatural revelation! The examples of syncretistic thinking abound.
What conclusions may we draw from this survey? First, the figures given are valid as much as they show the prevailing beliefs of students regarding basic questions of life. Second, it is important to bear in mind that for almost all of them can be said that they combine mechanically mutually exclusive convictions. This shows a lack of an all-round worldview. The survey shows the presence of superficial aspects of metaphysical knowledge based on what the respondents have heard, read or watched (family, friends, books, movies).
According to some this is an expression of the reluctance of today’s young people to embrace a Meta narrative or explanation of the world. Fragmentation in society leads to fragmentation in the spirit. For them morality is a subject of personal choice. The rights are everything, responsibilities – nothing. The choice of beliefs is like shopping in a hypermarket. Yet while in real shopping every person takes into consideration the condition (and sicknesses) of his own body (for example, if you are diabetic you won’t get white bread and French fries), in the spiritual hypermarket everything is allowed… yet just for now. Because sooner or later, in the spiritual, as well as in the physical world, everyone will be hold accountable for his deeds (or lack of deeds).
Most of the students don’t mind believing in one “god” who takes care of their prosperity, keeps them from evil, answers their prayers for happiness, health and luck but who doesn’t interfere in their private lives and turns a blind eye when they act immorally.
In the end, behind this reluctance to live accordingly to the requirements of the Creator is an emphatic individualism and ego-centrism characteristic of the contemporary person. Only he or she (and no one else) has the right to define the meaning, values, criteria of good and evil and even their eternal destiny.
It would be funny if it weren’t sad. Because, instead of realizing that they are created in God’s image and likeness, these young people create an illusory god in their image and likeness. Idle worship is a sin that will be, sooner or later, punished. Because “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” (Ps. 16:4)
What is the role of the church in this pitiful situation? What is necessary is continuous efforts and active work among students and young people in general for demolishing these “strongholds in the mind)” (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). Although looking immovable at first sight, these strongholds have no chance when they have the truth of God’s Word against them.