Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are Christians Poor, Ignorant and Violent?

There are few minds today I find as interesting as Dinesh D'Souza's. The long-time conservative author and speaker has recently released his latest book, What's So Great About Christianity. Currently on the New York Times bestseller list, this piece has obviously stirred the pot putting Dinesh at the center of the God debate. A recent article from his blog described a radio debate he participated in on the Michael Medved show a couple weeks ago with the editor of Skeptic Magazine. Classic Dinesh:

"I debated atheist Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, yesterday on the Michael Medved radio show. It was a two hour debate, and conducted at a high level that is not characteristic of radio programs. The main focus of the debate was my bestselling book What's So Great About Christianity, and in the course of the discusson we covered a lot of topics from the fine-tuned universe to why humans evolved morality to whether Adam and Eve were real people.

Shermer, always ready with his ream of data, uncorked some fascinating statistics about how Christians are more prone to social pathologies than non-Christians. For example, the more-religious United States has higher crime rates than the less-religious Europe. In America, evangelical Christians are apparently more likely to be uneducated and to have higher violent crime rates than non-Christians. Shermer even cited a study showing that secular doctors were more likely to do voluntary work than Christian doctors. Shermer went on and on about all this, and I was waiting for him to reveal that Christians have a greater tendency to bestiality than secular folks, but to my surprise Shermer had no data on this subject.

Actually U.S. crime rates today are not substantially higher than those of Europe. That's because there has been a marked decline in violent crime in America. But even the old statistics prove nothing, because the U.S. is an ethnically diverse society, immigrant societies always have higher crime rates, and European countries typically don't have the black-and-white problem that is peculiar to America. Yes, evangelical Christians in America may be poorer and less educated than non-Christians, but that may be because evangelical Christians are more concentrated in the South. One can hardly conclude that evangelical Christianity makes you poor and dumb. Finally C.S. Lewis made the point that a religion like Christianity which advertises itself as a remedy for human sin and brokenness is bound to attract more people who find themselves to be sinful and broken. Christianity attracts sinners for the same reason that doctors attract patients: one can hardly hang out at the doctor's office and then condemn the service because predominantly messed-up people keep showing up day after day."

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