We are doing far better than you think

Share 

I probably start 20 books for every one I finish. I read this one in a day: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

I hope to do a longer review in time, but here are some quotes to whet your appetite. Bottom line? A lot of what you hear about the church is wrong. The church is doing far better than you have heard. The first few quotes are introductory. If you get bored easily (as I do) skip down.


“
Each year, a new soul-seizing factoid that has no basis in truth circulates through the church and then through the culture at large. • "Christianity will die out in this generation unless we do something now." • "Only 4 percent of this generation is Christian." • "Ninety-four percent of teenagers drop out of church, never to return again." 
“
I deal with statistics almost every day. What I've learned is that 68 percent of stats are made up on the spot.
“
Many of the statistics currently bandied about regarding the Christian faith in the United States are incomplete, inaccurate, and otherwise prone to emphasize the negative. Bad news has pushed aside the good news about the Good News. 
“
What Hout and Fischer's conclusion warns us is that there may be a substantial cost for the church to play politics-we lose people.
“
Outreach magazine writes that "the picture is bleak," the facts are "sobering," and "94% of our churches are losing ground in the communities they serve."'
“
Evangelical Christians have been defined as having four central convictions: (1) salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, (2) an experience of personal conversion (i.e., being born again), (3) the importance of missions and evangelism, and (4) the truth of the Bible." Evangelical denominations include Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Assemblies of God, Lutherans in the Missouri Synod, the Church of Christ, and most nondenominational Protestant churches. 
“
Reflecting this change, in 1990, only about 200,000 Americans described themselves as nondenominational Christians, but in 2008, 8 million did so.18 
“
Perhaps counterintuitively, religions that make it easy for their members also provide fewer benefits and garner less commitment.
“
Notably, a large number of American-born Catholics have left their religion; in fact, an estimated 10% of all Americans are former Catholics.24 Why, then, hasn't the percentage of Catholics plummeted? Immigration.
“
"The vast majority of Americans are Christians. Which of the following is the largest group of non-Christians in the United States: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or the unaffiliated?" The correct answer, of course, is "unaffiliated" by almost a 10 to 1 margin, but barely a third of the respondents got it correct.
“
Since 1972, Evangelical Christians have more than doubled in number, going from about 25 million adults to almost 60 million.
“
The assumption that we live in a secularized world is false. The world today, with some exceptions ... is as furiously religious as it ever was, and in some places more so than ever. This means that a whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labeled "secularization theory" is essentially mistaken.49 To paraphrase Mark Twain: "The reports of God's death are greatly exaggerated." 
“
The percentage of [high school] seniors who viewed religion as either "pretty important" or "very important" dropped in the early 1980s, but it remained mostly stable for the next twenty years at between 55 and 60%.
“
Likewise, the number of  [high school] seniors who attended church on a weekly or monthly basis dropped through the 1980s, but it has held steady since then at about 45 to 50%. 
“
Do you need more reason to be skeptical? Consider previous, failed predictions." • In 1761, Ezra Stiles, before he was president of Yale University, used demographic projection techniques to predict that in 100 years there would be 7 million Congregationalists and less than half a million Baptists. Turns out that, in fact, in 1860 there were 2 million Baptists and only half a million Congregationalists. • In 1822, Thomas Jefferson predicted the imminent demise of Christianity in favor of Unitarianism. He wrote, "There is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." He wasn't even close. Currently less than .5% of the population is Unitarian. • In the 1800s, social theorist Auguste Comte stated that human society was outgrowing its "theological stage" of social evolution, and sociology would replace religion as the basis of moral judgment. (As someone who has spent twenty years in sociology, I am so, so glad that this did not happen.) • In the 1800s, Frederich Engels predicted that a socialist revolution would cause religion to evaporate "soon." 
“
Somewhat surprisingly, two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated believe in absolute truth, indicating that in fact they are not all postmodern, secular humanists who believe in relative truth, as is often assumed by Christians.
“
What would probably surprise many outspoken Christian leaders is the fact that over time, Evangelicals are praying more often.
“
If we look at how this has changed over time, there is little evidence that church attendance rates among Evangelicals are decreasing; in fact, they may even be increasing.
“
Over half, 52%, of Evangelicals report that they share their faith with others at least monthly,
“
A Pew Survey question asked respondents how often they "feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being." About two-thirds of Evangelicals and Black Protestants report feeling these positive emotions on a weekly if not daily basis. In contrast, slightly less than half of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christians report them.
“
What may surprise many if not most Christians is that the beliefs of young Evangelicals over the past several decades have either remained stable or have become more in line with the church's teachings.
“
. .  . who pray daily has steadily increased, from about half in the 1980s to over two-thirds currently. Church attendance has likewise trended upward, with about 35% of evangelical youth attending church weekly in the 1970s and 1980s and over 40% now.
“
Specifically, he found that regular attendees are more likely to look to God for strength, believe that God is watching over them, carry their religious beliefs into other dealings, feel God's presence every day, find comfort in religion, desire closeness to God, consider themselves to be very religious and spiritual, and have had a life-changing religious experience.26
“
Christians, Jews, and members of other religions all have relatively low rates of cohabitation, around 4%. In contrast, twice as many of the religiously unaffiliated, over 8%, are living together.
“
Likewise, with divorce, 60% of the never-attendees had been divorced or were separated compared to only 38% of the weekly attendees. 
“
If we focus on the line labeled "Christians (all)" we see that, taken as a whole, Christians are committing adultery about one-third less than the unaffiliated. It appears that the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery" is, thankfully, still having an effect on the church. 
“
Evangelicals who regularly attend church display far less sexual misconduct than those who attend less often. Twenty-two percent of Evangelicals who never attend church have committed adultery as compared to 13% of those who attend weekly.
“
Not only did Protestants commit less crime, but also the Protestants who attended church on a weekly basis did so far less than other Protestants. Figure 6.5 plots these differences, and the weekly attendees had crime levels that were about half as high as the other, less-frequently-attending Protestants. For example, 4% of the weekly attendees had been arrested, compared to 8% of the monthly attendees, 12% of the yearly attendees, and 15% of those who never attend.
“
Turning to attendance data, we see very large differences. Among Protestants, about 10 to 12% of the monthly, yearly, or rarely attending respondents averaged five drinks or more on the days they drank. In contrast, only 3% of the weekly attendees did.
“
Turning to attendance measures, when it comes to everyday honesty the results are mixed for Evangelicals. A willingness to lie for a friend decreases considerably with church attendance. While 17% of the Evangelicals who rarely attend church would lie to the police, only 3% of the weekly attendees would do so.
“
. . . people who associate themselves with Christianity, as compared to the religiously unaffiliated, are more likely to have faithful marriages, commit less crime, interact honestly with others, and not get into as much trouble with drugs or alcohol. What's more, the more committed Christians are to their faith, as measured by church attendance, the greater the impact the church's teachings seem to have on their lives. The 2006 Social Capital Community Study asks respondents how often they talk or visit with their immediate neighbors. As shown in Figure 7.1, Protestant respondents were the mostly likely (53%) to interact at least once a week with their neighbors, followed by Catholics (50%), those with no religious affiliation (46%), and members of other religions (44%).
“
Among Evangelicals, those who attend church services most frequently report the most caring and acceptance. About one-third of the never-attendees selflessly care for others on a daily basis compared to 45% of the more regular attendees. Similarly, only 26% of the never-attendees regularly accept others when they are wrong, but 46% of the weekly attendees do so.
“
Overall, Protestant respondents-Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, and Black Protestants-are the most forgiving, with 52 to 55% of them reporting that they always or almost always forgive others. About 45% of Catholics and members of other religions report always forgiving, and only 29% of the religiously unaffiliated do so. 
“
The good news is that among Evangelicals, weekly attendees are the most likely to give to the homeless and volunteer for charities. As shown in Figure 7.3, 54% of Evangelicals who attend church every week gave food or money to the homeless at least twice in the previous year, compared with only 34% of the never-attending ones. With charitable volunteering, the difference is even more pronounced. Forty-nine percent of weekly attendees volunteered compared to only 13% of the never attending.
“
Among Protestants, those who attended church services most frequently had the warmest feelings toward both the rich and the poor. The weekly attendees rated their feelings toward the poor at 74 points and toward the rich 63 points; whereas, those who rarely attended rated them at 66 and 55 points respectively. The gap between the rich and the poor remained steady, at 10 or 11 points, at each level of attendance. 
“
On a positive note, Evangelicals who attend church more often have warmer feelings toward minority groups than those who attend less often. Weekly attendees averaged ratings of 6.4 to 6.6 for these groups, and those who rarely attended or only attended yearly had ratings of 5.3 to 5.5. 
“
Among Evangelical high school kids, feelings of parental closeness increased with church attendance, especially with weekly attendance.
“
Among Evangelical youth, those who attended church more often were also the ones who were most likely to give their time and money to others. In fact, the weekly attendees were almost twice as likely to do these activities as the yearly attendees.
“
With measures of love and compassion, Christians do very well as compared to the rest of society. They are neighborly, forgiving, and caring for the poor. And what's more, these measures of general goodwill toward others increase with church attendance, which suggests the possibility that churches effectively teach compassion. 
“
In a classic sociological study, Eugene Hartley surveyed people about their attitudes toward various ethnic groups, including the fictitious groups "Dani- reans,""Pirraneans," and "Wallonians"9 He found that those people who didn't like Blacks and Jews also did not like these three fictional
“
However, in contrast, relatively few non-Christians had negative feelings toward Methodists, Catholics, or Baptists.
“
This allows us to examine whether non-Christians have increasingly negative attitudes toward Christians. To the contrary, their attitudes toward us actually have become increasingly positive in recent years. Figure 8.5 presents attitudes toward Evangelical Christians over time among three groups-Christians, members of other religions, and the religiously unaffiliated. In the 1990s, about 70% of the religiously unaffiliated had a negative opinion of Evangelical Christians, and now only about 40% do.
“
As shown in Figure 8.9,53% of Evangelicals believed that Evangelicals are looked down upon, and about 40 to 45% of the remaining respondents agreed with this statement. As you'll remember from the start of this chapter, the actual percentage of Americans who view Evangelicals negatively is closer to 20 to 25%. In other words, both Evangelicals and others think that Evangelicals are disrespected more than they are. Evangelical Christians in particular overinflate the negative opinions held about them by the general population. 
“
One of the questions asked faculty members if they had negative feelings toward various religious groups. As shown in Figure 8.10, over half-53%-of the faculty members reported having negative feelings toward Evangelical Christians, and this was far more than toward any other group