Is Christianity Good for People?

By Jon Kauffman

Many atheists claim that Christianity is harmful to society. What does the scientific evidence reveal? Many scientific polls and studies have been performed demonstrating that without a doubt Christianity is very beneficial to people’s happiness, health and wealth. Stark assembles a few of these studies and polls to demonstrate the evidence for the benefits of Religion.

I recently finished reading “America’s Blessings: How Religion benefits Everyone, Including Atheists” by Rodney Stark.

Quote from the Introduction of “America’s Blessings:”

It is past time for a full accounting of the tangible human and social benefits of faith in American society and for the recognition that one of our nations’ primary advantages over many others lies in the greater strength of religion in American life. As will be seen, this accounting is surprisingly easy because mountains of little-reported research and reliable data exist on a wide range of important religious effects. For example, compared to less religious and irreligious Americans,

  • At all ages, religious people are much less likely to commit crimes.
  • Religious Americans are far more likely to contribute even to secular charities, to volunteer their time to socially beneficial programs, and to be active in civic affairs.
  • Religious Americans enjoy superior mental health-they are happier, less neurotic, and far less likely to commit suicide.
  • Religious Americans also enjoy superior physical health, having an average life expectancy more than seven years longer than that of the irreligious. A very substantial difference remains even after the effects of “clean living” are removed.
  • Religious people are more apt to marry and less likely to divorce, and they express higher degrees of satisfaction with their spouses. The also are more likely to have children.
  • Religious husbands are substantially less likely to abuse their wives or children.
  • Religious American couples enjoy their sex lives more and are far less likely to have extramarital affairs.
  • Religious students perform better on standardized achievement tests.
  • Religious Americans are far less likely to have dropped out of school, which is especially true for African Americans and Hispanics.
  • Religious Americans are more successful, obtaining better jobs and far less subject ot being on unemployment or welfare; this is true not only for whites but for African Americans.
  • Although often portrayed as ignorant philistines, religious Americans are more likely to consume and sustain “high culture.”
  • Religious people are far less likely to believe in occult and paranormal phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFOs, Atlantis, ghosts, haunted houses, and astrology.

Translated into comparisons with Western European nations, we enjoy far lower crime rates, much higher levels of charitable giving, better health, stronger marriages, and less suicide, to note only a few of our benefits from being an unusually religious nation. Quite aside from the social and personal benefits of religious effects, that add up to many hundreds of billions of dollars a year in financial benefits…

America’s Blessings is available on Amazon.

A few years ago, a debate between atheists and religious believers spilled out from the halls of academia and the pews of America’s churches and into the public spotlight. A crop of atheist manifestos led the charge, surmounting and holding the tops of the nonfiction bestseller lists. This offensive brought on an outpouring of religious rebuttals. As both sides exchanged spirited volleys, accusations were leveled; myths, stereotypes, and strawmen arguments were perpetuated; and bitter hostility filled the air. Today many of these misconceptions and myths linger on, along with the generally acrimonious spirit of the debate. In America’s Blessings, distinguished researcher Rodney Stark seeks to clear the air of this hostility and debunk many of the debate’s most widely perpetuated misconceptions by drawing from an expansive pool of sociological findings. Looking at the measurable effects of religious faith and practice on American society, Stark rises above the fray and focuses exclusively on facts. His findings may surprise many, atheists and believers alike. Starting with a historical overview, Stark traces America’s religious roots from the founding of the country up through the present day, showing that religiosity in America has never been consistent, static, or monolithic. Interestingly, he finds that religious practice is now more prevalent than ever in America, despite any claims to the contrary. From here, Stark devotes whole chapters to unpacking the latest research on how religion affects different facets of modern American life, including crime, family life, sexuality, mental and physical health, sophistication, charity, and overall prosperity. The cumulative effect is that when translated into comparisons with western European nations, the United States comes out on top again and again. Thanks in no small part to America’s rich religious culture, the nation has far lower crime rates, much higher levels of charitable giving, better health, stronger marriages, and less suicide, to note only a few of the benefits. In the final chapter, Stark assesses the financial impact of these religious realities. It turns out that belief benefits the American economy—and all 300 million citizens, believer and nonbeliever alike—by a conservative estimate of $2.6 trillion a year. Despite the atheist outcry against religion, the remarkable conclusion is clear: all Americans, from the most religious among us to our secular neighbors, really ought to count our blessings.

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Author: Jon

Jon Kauffman graduated from Goshen College, earning a BA in Religion. Jon attended a Mennonite Church while growing up and currently attends the Salvation Army Church. Jon works as a drafter at TrueNorth Steel, Fargo, ND.

20 thoughts on “Is Christianity Good for People?”

  1. “At all ages, religious people are much less likely to commit crimes.”
    So, where does information come from? It seems nothing more than claims of correlation with no evidence of causation. Unsurprisngly, Stark has repeatedly claimed how great Chrsitianity is, but alas, Christianity is many different religions, not a single one. There is nothing to show that religion does anything, but community does. Stark tries to claim he isn’t a theist, but won’t explain, which seems awfully convenient for someone who consistently promotes Christianity, and tries to pretend that Christians don’t take the bible literally. They all do, but they certainly can’t agree which parts are to be thought as literal and which are to be claimed as metaphor, etc. Stark tries very hard to falsely claim how great “Western Civilization” is, which is little more than a dog whistle for people who want to pretend one race is better than others.

    He claims his thesis is “Central doctrines of Christianity prompted and sustained attractive, liberating, and effective social relations and organizations.” Which is a complete lie if one actually reads the bible. and “Perhaps even more revolutionary was the principle that Christian love and charity must extend beyond the boundaries of family and tribe, that it must extend to “all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Indeed, love and charity must even extend beyond the Christian community.” which is again not true if you read the bible. It is nothing new, just tribalism rewritten as a religion.

    This shows just how ignorant Stark is of pagan philosophy “Thou shalt not kill, as Tertullian (De Spectaculis) reminded his readers. And, as they gained ascendancy, Christians prohibited such “games.” More important, Christians effectively promulgated a moral vision utterly incompatible with the casual cruelty of pagan custom.” and gee, how many of us have heard Christians say that it is “thou shalt not murder not kill” to defend their actions?

    “Religious Americans are far more likely to contribute even to secular charities, to volunteer their time to socially beneficial programs, and to be active in civic affairs.”
    So, where does information come from? It seems nothing more than claims of correlation with no evidence of causation. And which charities are these, the “secular” ones?

    “Religious Americans enjoy superior mental health-they are happier, less neurotic, and far less likely to commit suicide.”
    Again, no causation demonstrated. Being in communities is shown to be the causative factor for this, not religion as such.

    “Religious Americans also enjoy superior physical health, having an average life expectancy more than seven years longer than that of the irreligious. A very substantial difference remains even after the effects of “clean living” are removed.”
    Same as above. And define “clean living”.

    “Religious people are more apt to marry and less likely to divorce, and they express higher degrees of satisfaction with their spouses. The also are more likely to have children.”
    This is hilarious since one can’t be divorced unless one is married. You also have the social pressures in religion to never admit that you are wrong. There is also the requirement of many religions to have children, which is no indication of happiness or correctness of beliefs.

    “Religious husbands are substantially less likely to abuse their wives or children.”
    As above, they won’t admit it and many of the religions have that it is nothing wrong to hit your spouse or children.

    “Religious American couples enjoy their sex lives more and are far less likely to have extramarital affairs.”
    This appears to be yet one more baseless claim, dependent on self-reporting. Now who do you think is going to admit having aa extramarital affair and that they are a Christian.

    “Religious students perform better on standardized achievement tests.”
    Again, religion or community?

    “Religious Americans are far less likely to have dropped out of school, which is especially true for African Americans and Hispanics.”
    Religion or community?

    “Religious Americans are more successful, obtaining better jobs and far less subject ot being on unemployment or welfare; this is true not only for whites but for African Americans.”
    Religion or community?

    “Although often portrayed as ignorant philistines, religious Americans are more likely to consume and sustain “high culture.”
    Define “high culture” and again, evidence for any of this?

    “Religious people are far less likely to believe in occult and paranormal phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFOs, Atlantis, ghosts, haunted houses, and astrology.”

    Most, if not all religions, fit the definition of supernatural and paranormal so they already have blown out the lie of this claim. All of the things listed are just as baseless as Christianity and any other religion that invokes magic, which yes, christianity does.

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    1. Stark used many scientifically performed polls and studies. He has provided an extensive Bibliography at the end of the book for those wishing to check on his facts.

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    2. Stark agrees with you that community is important. For example one of the surveys he looked at showed there was very little difference between Christians and others in California and Oregon as compared to the Midwest.

      In the West, Christianity seemed to make very little difference because children growing up in Christian homes were equally likely to commit crimes as those who did not. In the Midwest, those growing up in Christian homes consistently committed fewer crimes than those growing up in non-Christian homes.

      Overall the incidence of crime was higher for all groups in the West than in the Midwest. Stark’s theory was that in the West it is more likely that Christian children will have non-Christian friends. In the Midwest, because of the higher percentage of Christians to the general populations, children are more likely to have friends who are Christian.

      So before a child has made a decision as to whether or not to become a Christian, community makes a large difference.

      A Christian community clearly is less likely to experience crime.

      The surveys I have mentioned above and several others that Stark presented, show a clear causality between crime and Christianity vs non-Christian.

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      1. Stark attempts to claim that Christianity, and other religions, is responsible for what community is. This is the problem that I have with his claims.

        For example, the mid-west is 90…% Christian. He tries to claim Christianity is responsible for a supposed lack of criminality when it is not. It is community.

        And wow, that’s quite a claim from STark that if one has non-christian friends, this means more crime. Of course, he can’t show this to be the case. T

        You also have the problem that defining Christian is rather difficult since Christians don’t believe in the same things.

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      2. The study he refers to is high school students. Some high schools students living in Christian or non Christian homes are extremely susceptible to peer pressure. In Christian homes this would be especially true if they have not decided whether or not to be Christian. Where do you get the statistic that the midwest is 90% Christian? Seems high to me.

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      3. It is always amusing when Christians on one hand wnat to claim that the US is a Christian nation, but when it is convenient, they have to walk back that nonsense.

        Now I do see I am wrong and happily so. The Mid-West is around 75%-80%, which shows that claims of how “good” Christianity are falling apart. There is still no evidence of having non-christian friends this means that there is more crime.

        And still there is the problem of who are Christians.

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    3. @clubschadenfreude. You said, “Stark tries to claim he isn’t a theist.” In the book, Stark claims to be a Christian. If he was not a Christian and presenting good evidence, I would want to listen to him. I am looking for truth. I am willing to listen to anyone. I prefer to judge evidence on the quality of the evidence. The evidence that Stark presents demonstrating that Christianity is good for America if very good evidence.

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    4. @clubschadenfreude. As Stark mentions in the book the exact definition of Christian will vary from poll to poll, depending on how the poll taker worded the questions. In most cases, that I noticed, it appeared the poll takers considered a person a Christian if they claimed to be a Christian.

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      1. Yep, since Chrsitianity varies all over the place, there is no reason to attribute the effects of community to religion that does not agree on the most basic things.

        Since Christians can’t agree on what being a Christian is, the only way to know who is one is to accept what they claim about themselves. The bible does give ways to know who the true Christians are. Jesus promised his true followers will be able to do miracles like he does. Since no Christian can, that test fails, and, again, we only can go with what people say.

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    5. @clubschadenfreude. I had many questions as I read Stark’s book. I think he is definitely onto something concerning the benefits of Christianity and I would like to see more researchers studying this subject and taking polls that gather more information. It would be very interesting to see the results.

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      1. If you had questions, and now think that there should be more research done, this seems that you agree that Stark has not supported his claims. There is no evidence that Stark is “onto something” at all.

        As I have stated before, he attributes the effects of community to a single religion.

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    6. @clubschadenfreude. You mention that some people say that the United States is a Christian nation. I think the facts clearly indicate otherwise. In 1776 only 25% of the population belonged to churches. By 1850 33% belonged to churches. Today as many as 70% claim to belong to a church. In the beginning The United States was clearly not Christian. Today many in government and the universities consistently discriminate against Christians and we are not a Christian country.

      For example, recently Jerry Coyne initiated a lawsuit against Eric Hedlin, A Christian professor from his university, Ball State. Coyne brought the lawsuit against Hedlin over a class that Hedlin taught that mentioned some of the boundaries of science and natural processes. Many other scientists are also aware of this problem, demonstrated by the string theory and panspermia as theories to the beginning of life. What is Jerry Coyne afraid of, that he must limit dialogue that may challenge his own scientific, religious and world views? Especially in a university setting where search for truth should allow truth wherever it may come from?

      In 1750, a hundred years before the development of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, the French government refused to take anymore patents for perpetual motion machines because it was clear they did not work, though they did not know why. In a similar way many scientists are beginning to say that we should have a moratorium against theory’s of natural processes creating life on earth, because after a hundred years of experimentation scientists have made no progress in this area. We don’t know why.

      Clearly string theory, panspermia, and intelligent design are all theories superior to natural processes on earth for the creation of life on earth.

      Eric Hedlin’s side of the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA4QutvxX88&t=1100s

      Another bothersome attitude about Jerry Coyne as a professor at a university is his attitude about truth. He claims happiness is more important than truth. If your grandmother is dying and is happy because she will soon see Jesus, let her be happy and do not bother her with the truth that God does not exist. If Coyne would rather be happy as an academic instead of truthful, perhaps he should not be teaching at university where students are searching for truth.

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      1. Oh dear. Jon, do tell where you got the stats for your claims. I do need to know before I respond.

        and Hedlin lied, which is such a nice thing for a Christian to do. Do show me his reading list for that class, won’t you? It’s very easy to find. then we can discuss it.

        I’ll be back later.

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