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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5 Responses to DOES CHRISTIANITY MAKE A DIFFERENCE ?

  1. Having done 24 years of intensive research and study of different religions and beliefs, and having studied the Bible carefully, I can without doubt say that since Christianity came and set foot on the shores of South Africa in 1488, more evil than good has come out of it. With Bible in the hand, Christianity gave birth of a self-destructive monster. It came with motives of greed, deception, land grabbing, racism and war. During the struggle it was the christians praying to God for victory over the ANC and it’s partners. In 1994 when the ANC took over the country, all of the sudden few of the Christian leaders came forward and apologized for “Apartheid” , openly saying that they made a huge mistake. This proves that Christians have a major problem within their ranks, because if they did exactly what the Bible says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” right from the start, there would have been a great well developed and united South Africa today. Regretfully, as found, there is still a large percentage of so called christians who are feeding their self-destructive monster with racial hate and conflict, believing that they are the righteous ones. My art work which I am currently busy with, together with a booklet will unveil the truth of this all.

  2. steve says:

    wait a minute the question about giving money to the poor has non Christians giving more this doesnt make sense. most churches have a collection every week and most put in every week. though the money may not go to the poor only it will go to the needy whether that’s the elderly or the homeless or someone suffering from addiction. many also have programs to help others and a lot donate their time to help others. the salvation army does it 24/7. so the question is rigged in the first place. if its about helping people generally as to who will give the most money and their time to help the poor and the needy then Christians will win hands down. i mean they are the ones mopping up the mess out there on the streets. the governments have pulled the funding and it falls back on the charities who are mostly the churches.

    • peddiebill says:

      Fair comment. However on reflection surely most money that goes in a church collection plate is spent on the Church and Church staff. For example my small Rotary Club of 12 members (including 2 church attender members!!) gave $1000 to the Philippians Hurricane relief at its Tuesday night Club meeting.
      When I suggested to a Church minister that his 200 plus congregation might do the same or better he just looked uncomfortable. As the Rotary club gives away a minimum of $1000 per member each year and helps plenty of causes with labour it leaves the Church for dead in terms of charity. The Government money – mainly raised from taxes – at least in this country runs a huge welfare system – operates most of the schools and a health system that sees all citizens looked after. In the US it actually appears from the outside (at this safe distance ie New Zealand) that the Bible Belt states are the ones complaining most in favour of the death penalty, opposing medical aid for the poor (in that case Obama care)and having the highest gun crime while supporting what appears from here to be ridiculous gun laws. Please don’t get me wrong, I think there is some truth in what you say but I haven’t seen poll results that tell me that George Barna is wrong in his survey. I am in total agreement that the Salvation Army does a heap for the poor. They certainly do so here. But theirs is a relatively tiny Church, particularly when stacked up against Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist etc.

  3. Sarah says:

    Yeah it is hilarious how dilemmas similar to this one start looking ridiculously unimportant compared to the world events. The next part of the cold war, the actual true war that erupts, Russia-China fuel deal axis… Yet here we are with this social media troubles, – can we see the earth has improved? Iam not declaring what you come up with is inconsequential, I’m stating a certain degree of detachment is balanced. Thanks, Sarah @ http://phyto-renew350e.com/

  4. Pingback: Creating Powerful Christian Impact with Simple Life Changes – Scripture Seeds

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