CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This relates to my Want a Good Marriage? and Want to be a Charitable Person? posts, which were prompted by a commentor who argued that Christianity offered nothing based on his dubious representations of social science data, including the erroneous claim that Christians had the same divorce rate as everyone else. That is not the case, as Christians have lower divorce rates than the national average and Christians who attend church regularly have dramatically lower divorce rates. Also, Christians -- especially those who attend church regularly -- are much more likely to give to charity and give significantly more than do the Nonreligious.

Another social benefit of Christianity is that it promotes happiness. As Jonathan Haidt, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, notes, “surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people.” (emphasis added). Dr. Haidt is an atheist. As he states in this November 2007 interview, ”I'm an atheist, I don't believe that gods actually exist, but I part company with the New Atheists because I believe that religion is an adaptation that generally works quite well to supress [sic] selfishness, to create moral communities, to help people work together, trust each other and collaborate towards common ends.”

Professor Haidt's statement that numerous polls showing that religious believers in the United States tend to be happier finds ample support, especially when one looks at the relationship between attendance at religious services and happiness. Of course, I do not believe that happiness is the ultimate value. Sometimes happiness may unavoidably give way to other values. But I do think happiness is in general a valuable thing.

First, I looked at the Pew Research Center data, which found that those who attend religious services are happier than those who do not.

People who attend religious services weekly or more are happier (43% very happy) than those who attend monthly or less (31%); or seldom or never (26%). This correlation between happiness and frequency of church attendance has been a consistent finding in the General Social Surveys taken over the years.

The same pattern applies within all major religious denominations. For example, 38% of all Catholics who attend church weekly or more report being very happy, while just 28% of Catholics who attend church less often say they are very happy. The survey also finds that white evangelical Protestants (43%) are more likely than white mainline Protestants (33%) to report being very happy, but this difference goes away after taking frequency of church attendance into account.

Notice the portion that I put in bold. The GSS data has been consistently showing similar results to the Pew Survey.

Religion and church attendance are obviously not the only characteristics that increase happiness levels. Having more money, being married rather than single, being in good health, being a Republican also substantially increase happiness levels. The study takes a closer look at religion and income and suggests that religious attendance edges out income as an indicator of happiness and makes a 16 point difference for people of the same income.

Next, I looked at the results of a Scripps Howard/Ohio University performed in 2006, which found that compared to marriage, "[a]n even stronger factor is the power of organized religion _ any religion _ on a sense of well-being." Here are the results:

Although their numbers were small, Jewish participants in the poll were the most likely of any group to say they are very happy. Protestants _ especially self-identified "born again" evangelicals _ also report a high rate of contentment.

Sixty percent of people who have recently attended worship services at a church, synagogue or mosque say they are very happy, compared to 46 percent of people who have not publicly worshiped and 44 percent who have no religious preferences."

Additionally, this survey found that, controlling for other factors, "people of different races, regions and urban settings are about equally likely to be happy."

There is a more recent survey conducted in 2007 by the Associated Press and MTV, which focused on younger people and their happiness.

An extensive survey by The Associated Press and MTV found that people aged 13 to 24 who describe themselves as very spiritual or religious tend to be happier than those who don’t....

Eighty percent of those who call religion or spirituality the most important thing in their lives say they are happy, while 60 percent of those who say faith is not important to them consider themselves happy.

This study is a little different in that it does not measure happiness by church attendance, but by the self-reported importance the respondent places on religion. Still, the results are consistent with the above data. There is a twenty point difference in happiness levels between young people who greatly value religion and those who say it is not important.

In conclusion, these polls suggest that faith and regular attendance at religious services promote happiness. Certainly other factors do as well. But religious commitment appears to be one of the more important factors, edging out even income, though likely not health.

19 comments:

Do you plan on doing a post on racism and religiosity?

Surely so. Otherwise one might conclude you're just cherry-picking the statistical data.

David,

If you have evidence that church attendance causes racism, by all means let us see it.

It is odd how you keep whining about my posts and taking jabs at this or that aspect of the data -- or flat out misrepresenting how many surveys I rely on -- but offer none yourself.

One might conclude you are hopelessly biased and can't even admit the slightest bit of good about Christianity.

Again, why should I have to present the statistics that show correlations which aren't flattering to religion?

Shouldn't you, if you're interested in being intellectually honest, discuss both the good and the bad as it relates to statistics on religion?

Or do you deny that there are studies showing unflattering correlations?


One might conclude you are hopelessly biased and can't even admit the slightest bit of good about Christianity.


By all means, there are studies which present religion in a positive light on a great many things. But if you're actually interested in making a case that religion is, overall, socially beneficial then you should present the good and the bad and make you're case that the good substantially outweighs the bad---that would be more intellectually honest than pretending that the studies finding unflattering correlations don't exist.

Some examples:

"Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" published in the JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND SOCIETY. The studies author states:


"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."


Or this article:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/6wnv26q344t52hw7/?p=ed5a99b4443a41a5b36114e7acbfc8b3&pi=5

Whose abstract states that:

"This article examines associations between self-reported religious affiliations and official offense histories among 111 incarcerated adult male sexual offenders. Four categories of religiosity were devised according to self-reported continuities and discontinuities in life-course religious affiliations: atheists, dropouts, converts, and stayers. ANCOVAs indicated that stayers (those who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood) had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims, than other groups."


I could go on and on presenting links, studies and statistics of this sort but, again, I shouldn't have to---its a mere google search away. If you were actually interested in presenting an honest assessment of how beneficial religion is to society you should be presenting both sorts of data and comparing them.

But I suppose that wouldn't fit your ideological agenda.

And, again, my point is not, as you have characterized it, that I "can't admit the slightest bit of good about Christianity." Its simply that you're only presenting the data which reflects positively on religion----to judge by your articles one wouldn't even suspect that ANY contrary statistics, studies or findings exist.

Again, why should I have to present the statistics that show correlations which aren't flattering to religion?

Because you keep making claims that they exist without providing any backup data or evidence.

Shouldn't you, if you're interested in being intellectually honest, discuss both the good and the bad as it relates to statistics on religion?

I am being intellectually honest. I am responding to the claim that religion offers no social benefits at all. I am showing that religion offers particular and significant social benefits. I have not claimed that religion is the only source of these social benefits and I have not claimed that there may not be some negative affects correlated with religion.

Or do you deny that there are studies showing unflattering correlations?

Certainly not. I doubt there is anything that lacks at least some unflattering correlations. Whether those are suggestive of causation, however, is another issue.

By all means, there are studies which present religion in a positive light on a great many things.

Yes, there are. And I’m going through a number of them.

But if you're actually interested in making a case that religion is, overall, socially beneficial then you should present the good and the bad and make you're case that the good substantially outweighs the bad---that would be more intellectually honest than pretending that the studies finding unflattering correlations don't exist.

The case I am making is in refutation of the assertion that religion offers no social benefits. My focus has been on the United States and therefore Christianity given that Christians dominate the religious scene in the United States. You have conceded that there are studies which present religion in a positive light, but you’ve yet to admit that there is at least likely some causation there. If you want to show me what you think being intellectually honest looks like, then feel free to start by making such admissions. Instead you’ve misrepresented my posts, demanded more studies when I’ve offered many, apparently denied the utility of the GSS, and made other attempts to blunt or deny that there is any causation relationship between any social good and religious attendance or attendance at Christian churches.

I have not denied that there are or may be negative correlations. There may even be some negative causation related to social factors. I do not think the churches in the United States are above reproach or do all things right. What I have demanded is that you offer evidence or argument for your assertions. You make repeated claims such that church attendance causes or at least correlates with racism. You’ve not backed that up. If that were true, and it may very well have been true at some point in U.S. history or in some other countries, then its a real social problem that the churches should address. The irony is that you have developed -- or simply assumed your own benefit -- that I have claimed that Christianity has no negative correlations at all. I haven’t. I have asked you for evidence supporting your specific claims to that effect so we can examine them and see what they do indeed show and whether there is reason to believe there is causation as well as correlation.

The irony is that I’ve given loads of evidence and research to back up my claims and you have continually tried to claim that it was insufficient or irrelevant somehow, or simply lied claiming I cited only one study when I had in fact cited six or seven. And on top of claiming that all this evidence was somehow ineffective, you claim that despite your claims about specific negative effects you think are associated with religion or Christianity, you deny you have any responsibility to back up those claims with evidence.

So yes, I believe I am being intellectually honest and that you are cannot bring yourself to admit that it seems likely that Christianity in the United States offers social benefits such as a reduced divorce rate, increased charitable giving (by frequency and quantity, and higher rates of happiness).

Now, you have finally offered two pieces of evidence. Both are lacking in my opinion, though you’ve given us little access to any real data. I’ll deal with the first now and the second as I have time.

Some examples:

"Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" published in the JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND SOCIETY. The studies author states:

"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."


Apparently this is not available electronically, which is fine. But could you at least provide a citation and a date and details about the study? Have you read the study? This sounds suspiciously like your claims about “areas” of “high religiousity” having more social ills than those with lower religiousity. What this seems to be saying is that certain European states are more secular than other democracies and have higher rates of secularism. This does not suggest that attendance at church causes homicide, early mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion.

It is very possible that many other factors are at work when comparing nation to nation. As we’ve seen, for example, your claim that areas of high religiousity have much higher divorce rates but we know that divorce rates among those actually attending church is significantly lower than those who do not attend church. So the actual attending of church is not a causal factor here for increased divorce rate but just the opposite.

Nor do I think it likely that the prosperous democracies that have more social ills are having them because the people going to church are committing the murders or getting murdered. There may be some issues with STD or increased pregnancy given some churches bar on contraceptives. There may be a downside there and such bars IMO are ill conceived theologically. In any event, before we even admit that much we’d need data on church goers showing they are the ones with the higher rates of STD and abortion. Teen pregnancy is another issue that is related, but I think there is a profound difference between a married 19 year old getting pregnant and an unmarried 16 year old. Religious young people may be more likely to marry and have kids earlier than their secular counterparts. This does not mean that the decision was necessarily a poor one or a negative for society.

It might be helpful to look at some data between states in the United States. Utah, for example, has a very lower violent crime rate -- the sixth lowest in the U.S. (according to the FBI’s 2007 statistics). But it is an area of so-called “high religiousity” with the fifth highest rate of religious attendance and a very high religious self-identification. North and South Dakota have the fourth and fifth lowest violent crime rates in the U.S. and also have religious attendance rates above the national average. On the other hand, New Hampshire has the lowest crime rate and the lowest church attendance rate. But then the District of Columbia has one of the lowest rates of church attendance and the highest rate of violent crime in the country, around 30% higher than the runner up. Nevada has the third highest violent crime rate in the nation and has the third lowest church attendance rate as well. There obviously is something else going on in these states and in the comparison of the nations cited in the study (whatever they are).

The FBI statistics came from The World Almanac 2009. The rates of church attendance came from Gallup, as reported here: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060502/news_lz1n2thelist.html

Ah yes, because non-xians are completely incapable of happiness, right? Do you people ever listen to the propaganda that you spew forth?

"Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" published in the JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND SOCIETY. The studies author states:

isn't that the origianl Zuckerman study? that's been disproved so many times.

Attending church made me depressed, confused, frustrated and anxious.

Don't think I'll be going back to that anytime soon...;-)

Since atheism is fact-based, one would normally assume that David has some facts he can point to, or this form equally valid:

"Isn't there some study out there that correlates atheism with eating live babies? I bet David has not looked into that! Probably because of his bias."

David, is a fact unknown to you something that you can base a fact-based view upon? So if you know of a link between "religion" (which is ignoring the point, if no-one is making the case for "any ol' religious behavior") and racism, if you suspect a point, then that view is not exactly fact-based. You just suspect it.

Perhaps, you suspect it because you view your worldview is more fact-based than a particular worldview. But that would give a role to intuition, which has questionable value in a fact-based worldview.

Besides that, the prison study sounds like the one JL rips open elsewhere on this blog.

More noise from the "fact-based" world. Where intuition counts, but only after having been sufficiently renewed in mind and born-again to the "fact-based" world.

I visited the blog METAMAGICIAN earlier today and he had a post up which has more than a little pertinence to discussing statistics (especially the careless use of it).

Imagine two individuals. One has an average happiness throughout life of 9.0 on a scale of one to ten. Another had an average of 8.5/10.

Which would you prefer to be? Most people would probably say the 9. But the correct answer would be "I don't know. I need more information."

For example, suppose the first individual lived to be 50 years old and had an average happiness of 9/10 throughout his life. But the second individual had also had an average of 9/10 for the first fifty years---but went on to live 50 more years and having an average of 8/10 (still quite high) throughout the second half of his life. That gives him an overall average of 8.5---less, on average than the first individual, but this additional information certainly changes one's assessment.

Moral: be careful how you use statistics. The human brain isn't naturally wired to understand statistics very well and we are all too prone to just jump on a statistic that seems, at first glance, to favor our preferred position rather than to dig deep and assess the subject with the care necessary to make reasonable judgements.

Does religion have some beneficial features? Almost certainly so---after all, if, as I suspect, religion evolved largely as a coping mechanism then we should expect to see such personal benefits. Otherwise it would be a pretty poor coping mechanism.

But that, of course, has absolutely no bearing on whether its true. Or whether other coping mechanisms, not involving unfounded beliefs, might be just as effective.

Final thought: it would be useful if there were a source of information on social well-beings stats of a wide variety. Anybody know of any websites where such information is gathered and linked to in an accessible, useful way?

Attending church made me depressed, confused, frustrated and anxious.

Don't think I'll be going back to that anytime soon...;-)

go to a different one

For example, suppose the first individual lived to be 50 years old and had an average happiness of 9/10 throughout his life. But the second individual had also had an average of 9/10 for the first fifty years---but went on to live 50 more years and having an average of 8/10 (still quite high) throughout the second half of his life. That gives him an overall average of 8.5---less, on average than the first individual, but this additional information certainly changes one's assessment.


you can just wave your hand in the air and say "statistics are stupid" and resue to accept the validity of a vast body of work form social sicneces.

350 studies show mystical experince promsite self actulization and life life transfomration

300 studies show participation in rleigious tradiion is benificial

Larsen looked at 2000 studies in social sciences and found that almost every time they demographics the religious participation factor it turned otu positive.

if we counted all the studies that show positives for religion there would be over 2000 I'm sure. that would be easy.

you can't just dismiss this vast body of empirical scince then go back to message boards condmening theim because no science backs it up. take responsiblity for your arugmetns.


you have no counter studies. so you are against religion are all anedotal.

just face the facts man. The facts support the notion that religion is a great thing. If it wasn't for you just do it a different way.

btw Dave there arguments on Doxa forums for you that have been waiting weeks for you to answer them.

they are threads sitting waiting for you to come.


you can just wave your hand in the air and say "statistics are stupid" and resue to accept the validity of a vast body of work form social sicneces.


That's hardly my position---I'm returning to college this summer with a major in applied math.

I'm saying that these articles have been pretty sloppy in their approach to statistics.


btw Dave there arguments on Doxa forums for you that have been waiting weeks for you to answer them.


I'll look and see if there's anything of interest. But I see little point in going round and round with you on issues where you don't seem to be getting what my position even is and your responses seem to be addressing some position totally unrelated to the things I've said. I've got better things to do.

"go to a different one..."

Gee, why didn't I think of that? LMAO!

How many should I try Joe? I've lost count...

go to a different one..."

Gee, why didn't I think of that? LMAO!

How many should I try Joe? I've lost count...

O well, too bad you don't live in Dallas.

You might try staring one in your house. It might be easier that way to find people you feel you can relate to.

you can just wave your hand in the air and say "statistics are stupid" and resue to accept the validity of a vast body of work form social sicneces.




That's hardly my position---I'm returning to college this summer with a major in applied math.

I'm saying that these articles have been pretty sloppy in their approach to statistics.

what you really need is a major in social sciences. It's not a matter of knowing math it's matter of understanding social science research.

saying that the article are sloppy is irrelevant. The issue should be the studies they describing.



btw Dave there arguments on Doxa forums for you that have been waiting weeks for you to answer them.


I'll look and see if there's anything of interest. But I see little point in going round and round with you on issues where you don't seem to be getting what my position even is and your responses seem to be addressing some position totally unrelated to the things I've said. I've got better things to do.


ahahahahahahaahaha in other words. I kicked you know what! I did! youc an't touch those stuides. you know you can't tough them. your positon is totally incredulous and expossed as wanting.


atheism is defeated. IT's beatn. that's the only problem you had with the statistics.

you can't touch the studies. you can't touch of God argumetns but you can't admit there may be a reason to believe in God. so you have to save face by making like the arguments are bad.

So, how many alleged studies are there, metacrock? 200? 250? 300? 350? 2000? Make up your mind and post a bibliography of these alleged studies.

"You might try staring one in your house. It might be easier that way to find people you feel you can relate to."

The people I relate to would be atheists, though, so I'm not sure how that would work...;-)


ahahahahahahaahaha in other words. I kicked you know what! I did! youc an't touch those stuides. you know you can't tough them. your positon is totally incredulous and expossed as wanting.


atheism is defeated. IT's beatn. that's the only problem you had with the statistics.

you can't touch the studies. you can't touch of God argumetns but you can't admit there may be a reason to believe in God. so you have to save face by making like the arguments are bad


Yeah, Meta, that must be why I don't want to repeat the same thing I did several years ago---spend hours of my free time on your forum debating your rambling, barely coherent (which in being generous in the case of many of them) arguments for theism.

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