DOES CHRISTIANITY MAKE A DIFFERENCE ?

One somewhat depressing set of statistics for today’s Christian is that a number of sociological studies reveal that there is little to choose between the morals of those claiming the title of Christian and those who have no Christian affiliation.   In spite of all the sermons about how belief makes a difference in life, the numbers show that those claiming to be Christians are not better off than unbelievers. At least one born-again sociologist is honest enough to admit it.

We start our discussion with one survey compendium typical of such studies. This collection of statistics by George Bana addressed the apparent situation of those in the United States.

In particular he addressed one wider question which was:
Are Christians more moral or successful than non-Christians?

His blunt conclusion in his book, The Second Coming Of The Church by George Barna (Word Publishing, 1998), was that that they are not. The author, a self identified born-again Christian sociologist, is founder and president of Barna Research Group (CA), which releases many of its own survey results in the context of other national surveys.
Although most of Barna’s book is addressed to Christian ministers with the intention of suggesting how the church might regain something of its lost status, it presents statistics which indicate how the present church has “failed” in its mission. The numbers are only partially based on Barna’s own studies, and are supplemented with a number of other national surveys.

Barna compares the behaviors and attitudes of Christians with Non-Christians (see tables below) and concludes: “We think and behave no differently from anyone else.”

Examples of the Similarity of Behavior Between Christians and Non-Christians
(from The Second Coming Of The Church, p 6, partial list)

Have been divorced (among those who have been married) Born Again Christians: 27%; Non-Christians: 23%
Gave money to a homeless person or poor person, in past year Born Again Christians: 24%; Non-Christians: 34%
Took drugs or medication prescribed for depression, in past year Born Again Christians: 7%; Non-Christians: 8%
Watched an X-rated movie in the past 3 months Born Again Christians: 9%; Non-Christians: 16%
Donated any money to a nonprofit organization, in past month Born Again Christians: 47%; Non-Christians: 48%
Bought a lottery ticket, in the past week Born Again Christians: 23%; Non-Christians: 27%
Attended a community meeting on local issue, in past year Born Again Christians: 37%; Non-Christians: 42%
Examples of the Similarity of Attitudes Between Christians and non-Christians
(from The Second Coming Of The Church, p 21, partial list)
Feel completely or very successful in life Born Again Christians: 58%; Non-Christians: 49%
It is impossible to get ahead because of your financial debt Born Again Christians: 33%; Non-Christians: 39%
You are still trying to figure out the purpose of your life Born Again Christians: 36%; Non-Christians: 47%
Satisfied with your life these days Born Again Christians: 69%; Non-Christians: 68%
Your personal financial situation is getting better Born Again Christians: 27%; Non-Christians: 28%

Barna also sheds light on variation in definition of “God” that most Americans claim to believe in:

“Since more than nine out of ten Americans own at least one Bible, and 86 percent call themselves Christian, you might expect people to pay homage to the deity described and followed by the Christian Church. In July 1997, we asked a nationwide sample of 1,012 adults to describe the God they believe in. Two out of three adults (67 percent) said they believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe who rules the world today. The remaining one-third described their god as ‘the total realization of personal, human potential’; or ‘a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach’; or said, ‘Everyone is God’; ‘There are many gods, each with different power and authority’; or ‘There is no such thing as God.’ The remaining 5 percent said they did not know.” {Pages 25-26}

According to Barna, bearing in mind his own personal definition, a third of Americans do not really believe in “God” at all.

If we now move to compare countries that have discernible Christian populations it might be argued that that Christian influence should be expected to impact on serious crime such as murder.    In the following table of countries considered to have relatively reliable murder statistics we can for example compare the murder rate in the predominantly Roman Catholic country of Columbia, with the high Church going percentage country of the United States and the predominantly non Christian countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia and Quatar.
Here are 62 Countries in order of frequency of murder starting with the most frequent murder count.

Rank  |   Countries          | Amount
# 1  Colombia: 0.617847 per 1,000 people
# 2  South Africa: 0.496008 per 1,000 people
# 3  Jamaica:0.324196 per 1,000 people
# 4  Venezuela:0.316138 per 1,000 people
# 5  Russia:0.201534 per 1,000 people
# 6  Mexico:0.130213 per 1,000 people
# 7  Estonia:0.107277 per 1,000 people
# 8  Latvia:0.10393 per 1,000 people
# 9  Lithuania: 0.102863 per 1,000 people
# 10  Belarus:0.0983495 per 1,000 people
# 11  Ukraine:0.094006 per 1,000 people
# 12  Papua New Guinea:0.0838593 per 1,000 people
# 13  Kyrgyzstan:0.0802565 per 1,000 people
# 14  Thailand:0.0800798 per 1,000 people
# 15  Moldova:0.0781145 per 1,000 people
# 16  Zimbabwe:0.0749938 per 1,000 people
# 17  Seychelles:0.0739025 per 1,000 people
# 18  Zambia:0.070769 per 1,000 people
# 19  Costa Rica:0.061006 per 1,000 people
# 20  Poland:0.0562789 per 1,000 people
# 21  Georgia:0.0511011 per 1,000 people
# 22  Uruguay:0.045082 per 1,000 people
# 23  Bulgaria:0.0445638 per 1,000 people
# 24  United States:0.042802 per 1,000 people
# 25  Armenia:0.0425746 per 1,000 people
# 26  India:0.0344083 per 1,000 people
# 27  Yemen:0.0336276 per 1,000 people
# 28  Dominica:0.0289733 per 1,000 people
# 29  Azerbaijan:0.0285642 per 1,000 people
# 30  Finland:0.0283362 per 1,000 people
# 31  Slovakia:0.0263303 per 1,000 people
# 32  Romania:0.0250784 per 1,000 people
# 33  Portugal:0.0233769 per 1,000 people
# 34  Malaysia:0.0230034 per 1,000 people
# 35  Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of:0.0229829 per 1,000 people
# 36  Mauritius:0.021121 per 1,000 people
# 37  Hungary:0.0204857 per 1,000 people
# 38  Korea, South:0.0196336 per 1,000 people
# 39  Slovenia:0.0179015 per 1,000 people
# 40  France:0.0173272 per 1,000 people
# 41  Czech Republic:0.0169905 per 1,000 people
# 42  Iceland:0.0168499 per 1,000 people
# 43  Australia:0.0150324 per 1,000 people
# 44  Canada:0.0149063 per 1,000 people
# 45  Chile:0.014705 per 1,000 people
# 46  United Kingdom:0.0140633 per 1,000 people
# 47  Italy:0.0128393 per 1,000 people
# 48  Spain:0.0122456 per 1,000 people
# 49  Germany:0.0116461 per 1,000 people
# 50  Tunisia:0.0112159 per 1,000 people
# 51  Netherlands:0.0111538 per 1,000 people
# 52  New Zealand:0.0111524 per 1,000 people
# 53  Denmark:0.0106775 per 1,000 people
# 54  Norway:0.0106684 per 1,000 people
# 55  Ireland:0.00946215 per 1,000 people
# 56  Switzerland:0.00921351 per 1,000 people
# 57  Indonesia:0.00910842 per 1,000 people
# 58  Greece:0.0075928 per 1,000 people
# 59  Hong Kong:0.00550804 per 1,000 people
# 60  Japan:0.00499933 per 1,000 people
# 61  Saudi Arabia:0.00397456 per 1,000 people
# 62  Qatar:0.00115868 per 1,000 people
Weighted average:0.1 per 1,000 people

DEFINITION: Total recorded intentional homicides, completed. Crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence. Per capita figures expressed per 1,000 population.
SOURCE: Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 – 2000 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)

A FINAL THOUGHT
Perhaps our actions show more about the sort of God we claim to worship than the religious phrases that trip so readily off the tongue.  Certainly John Locke had a point when he said: I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.  If this is indeed the case perhaps we should leave it to others to sift through the evidence to see if there is sufficient justification for labelling us Christian.

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2 Responses to DOES CHRISTIANITY MAKE A DIFFERENCE ?

  1. Cherel says:

    My husband and I are born again Christians. We married as virgins and have been married for 37 years now. No affairs. No X-rated movies or lottery tickets or violence– certainly no murders. We don’t take the Lord’s name in vain or covet our neighbors goods. We love God and our neighbors– even around the world. Don’t lie or steal or bear false witness. Don’t even cuss! We help feed children in Brazil and support a missionary in Bergama. We support our local Women’s Crises Pregnancy Center, our local church and give to individual needs and various causes. In short, we live by Biblical principles and encourage others to do so as well.

    I don’t know what to say about the surveys. Nobody asked me. But I know true Christians do not live like the world. There are, however, a lot of tares among the wheat.

    • peddiebill says:

      Well Cherel, I too was married as a virgin etc etc but I am not sure if you have understood the point of my site. The point is to invite people to be self-critical and think deeply, not to encourage them to accept standard Church claims. It is not to confirm what we hope to be true – but rather to look objectively at real situations and see how the facts inform our beliefs and attitudes. It is clear that you dont like the idea that some people claiming to be born again Christians might in fact be not much different from others, but assuming the surveys have been done according to the social science rules, that is what the surveys appear to say. In the same way you assume that Christians are all good because they follow an exclusively good Bible and Islamic people are all bad because they follow an all bad Quran. But that is not what the facts say. Look up the five principles of Islam if you dont believe me. None of the principles call for suicide bombers but some Islamic fundamentalists do it anyway. No Christian principles call for bombing civilians with white phosporus but some Christians do it anyway. Why pretend otherwise. If just as many people who are Islamic die at the hands of Christians as Christians die at the hands of Islamic people
      then the total number of incidents is irrelevant. When I wrote my text about Terrorism, I looked up many of the standard statistics and unfortunately the total score favours more dead amongst the Islamic people. We can probably find the beginnings of some explanations for this, but unless you are telling me that all those dead were counted wrong and give me the figures to prove it, just as the prophets of old told unpleasant truths I feel constrained to tell the truth and not give way even if a self claimed born again Christian tells me I must. If you are saying Christians are not Christians unless they follow Christ in their actions I agree – and have said so in detail elsewhere. eg see my comments at the end of my essya “Christian Literalism: the Shaping of God”
      If your faith tells you that we must not acknowledge bad things done in our name, and only notice bad things done in the name of Allah, well I am sorry. I would find that sort of faith too hypocritical to follow.

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