Atheist Ramblings - 2.4

From approximately June 1999

Holier than thou?

...It seems like every night someone is making the claim that xtians are more moral or ethical than atheists. I've talked some about this before (see A Question of Morals, Moral Absolutes?), but I wanted to touch the issue again.

...I was prompted to re-touch this issue because of a message from Dan Barker (of Internet Infidels) that I picked up across a mailing list. He recently read the book The Second Coming of the Church by George Barna (Word Publishing, 1998). He posted some interesting information from it and I'll post some of his findings.

...Barna is a born-again Christian, sociologist, and the founder and president of Barna Research Group, which releases many meaningful survey results. He reports some frank statistics showing how the present church has "failed" in its mission. The numbers are based on his own studies, and other national studies.

On page 6 he gives a table: "Examples of the Similarity of Behavior Between Christians and Non-Christians." The 25 items on this list include:

"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%

"Read all or part of a book for pleasure, in the past week"
Born Again Christians - 50%; Non-Christians - 57%

"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%

And so on . . .

...On page 121, he gives another table, "Examples of the Similarity of Attitudes Between Christians and non-Christians"

"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 concludes: "We think and behave no differently from anyone else." [p. 7]

...He also sheds some light on the 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." [Page 25-26]

...So, according to Barna, one American out of three does not really believe in "God" at all.

...Personally, I find it quite comforting to hear a xtian, particularly a vocal xtian, all but admit that xtians are not better than atheists and non-xtians. With any luck, his message will stick around and spread and irradicate the silly idea that only xtians are 'moral' or that non-xtians are somehow worse off than xtians.

...Well, one can hope at least.