Thus saith Creeper.
Let's see, first, I was hoping to debate on more interesting issues like how does a naturalistic atheistic evolutionist explain the ex nihilo appearance of 1) matter and 2) life? Or why won't they acknowledge that they are beginning their interpretations of evidence from a point of view (some of them do, but many run from this) but instead try to pretend that they have the only point of view? I try to stay on the biggest side of the issues. The percentage of Christians in jails? That seems pretty irrelevant. Not sure why that is such an issue for some of these commenters. But I will tackle this, since Creeper has been kind enough to focus on one issue and stay there, rather than sending us off down a rabbit trail.
WHAT IS THE PERCENTAGE OF CHRISTIANS IN JAIL POPULATIONS?
Before we go into this, we need to define terms. What is the definition of "Christian?" I would say a Christian, which means "Christ-like", must be a born-again believer who is attempting to live for God. That is how I define myself and the general group of people who attend my church, at least those that I know.
The Bible, which must be considered the authority in this matter, says this:
Acts 11:25&6- "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
Here the Bible is stating that disciple=Christian. Disciple means to be someone who is dedicated to a certain discipline. It isn't a matter of just attending church or being born into a family where once a relative used to be a Presbyterian. It isn't simply a matter of sorting people into demographics, like you are either a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim.
There are only two other verses in the Bible that use this term. I will list them...
Acts 26:28 - "Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"
King Agrippa was very aware of the Christian movement and in this passage is acknowledging that being a Christian would require a choice rather than being a matter of, say, birth or heritage of some sort.
I Peter 4:16 - "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."
Here the idea of being a Christian is associated with a lifestyle that might cause one to be persecuted in some way. Being persecuted in those days often meant perhaps even being tortured and killed. Christians are still being tortured and killed in places in Africa and Asia primarily but, here in the States, the worst we usually get is a bit of derision or prejudicial treatment.
In any event, by usage among Christians and by the Bible definition, Christian most definitely means to be a disciple of Christ. Now lets look at some polling numbers from Barna.
- Looking across the past decade we find the following percentages of born again Christians:
2006 - 45% 2005- 40% 2004-38% 2002-40% 2001- 41% 2000- 41% 1999- 40% 1998- 39% 1997- 43% 1996-39% 1995-35% 1994- 36% 1993-36% 1992- 40% 1991- 35%
There are approximately 101 million born again Christians. (2006)
- Half of born again Christians (46%) agree that Satan is "not a living being but is a symbol of evil." (2005)
- About one-third of born agains (33%) believe that if a person is good enough they can earn a place in Heaven. (2005)
- 28% of born agains agree that "while he lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people," compared to 42% of all adults. (2005)
- Born again Christians are more likely than non-born again individuals to accept moral absolutes. Specifically, 32% of born agains said they believe in moral absolutes, compared to just half as many (15%) among non-born agains. (2002)
Well, only 8% identify themselves as "Evangelical Christians" and that may be a fair number. To be an evangelical Christian who believes in evangelizing, well, that is part of discipleship. This demographic chart online gives a number of people identifying themselves as Christians in the USA as 76.5% and yet Evangelicals come in at only 8%. That means that about 10% of those who call themselves Christians could be expected to actually meet the Biblical definition, if that.
Barna states that 9% of the population are Evangelicals. Here are some related findings:
- Of the five faith segments (evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, notional Christians, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and atheists/agnostics), evangelicals were the most likely to do each of the following:
- discuss spiritual matters with other people.
- volunteer at a church or non-profit organization.
- discuss political matters with other people.
- discuss moral issues and conditions with others.
- stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints.
- go out of their way to encourage or compliment someone
I now suspect my quick and offhand guess at 11% was way too high. Maybe more like 1%. Here is another voice:
Here are some excerpts:
In the federal prisoner statistics, a full 20% of the respondents either answered "none" or provided no response to the question on religious affiliation. Based on response patterns to similar questions on nationwide surveys, it is likely that all or nearly all of these persons would be in the "nonreligious" category (or the "atheists" category, to use the terminology from the atheist web page itself). Even without adding the ".209%" of the population that specifically identified themselves as atheists, the segment of the prison population which self-identifies as non-religious is approximately twice as large as found in the general population.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 1999Source: Peggy Fikac. "More prison inmates say they're Baptist than any other religion." Associated Press (The Abilene Reporter-News)
Baptist 39,781 30.3%
Unknown* 28,890 22.0%
Catholic 23,637 18.0%
Other 39,009 29.7%
-------- ------- ------
Total 131,316 100.0%
* Unknown: "22 percent are categorized as 'unknown,' representing inmates who didn't say or didn't care when asked for their religious denomination." Most of these would be classified functionally in the "nonreligious" category.
* Other: "The rest of the inmates are divided among the categories of Christian Church, Methodist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish, non-denominational, no religious preference and other."
The passage below [source: Christine Wicker. "Dumbfounded by divorce" in Dallas Morning News, 2000; URL: http://18.104.22.168/release/new/dallas/morning/dallasreligion/p1s5m.htm] is indicative of how prevalent it is for people to cite a religious preference, even if they are not religious:
There might be... reason to question Mr. Barna's survey and many other studies of religious people the hazards of self-identification.
Bill Johnson... and his second wife, Donna, co-teach Rebuilders, Prestonwood Baptist's ministry to remarried couples... Mr. Johnson is also a therapist and federal probation officer. His work experience has caused him to note that it's awfully popular to be Baptist. "When I interview criminals going into prison or coming out of prison, most of them are Baptists," he said, laughing. "Everybody seems to be a Baptist, even if they're not religious or Christian."
We are aware of two non-academic web pages, featuring commentary by self-described atheists, which attempt to present statistics in such a way as to indicate that religion leads to crime and incarceration. Some of these statements are addressed here, but that is not the focus of this page. Such a notion hardly requires refutation: available statistics, academic studies (as opposed to positional essays by atheists), and common experience attest otherwise.
Religious proponents, on the other hand, often use statistics relating to religiosity to show that religious participation prevents crime and incarceration.
The statistically verifiable reality should come as no surprise to those who have first hand experience with criminal and religious sociology:
1. The majority of Americans (85%) have a stated religious preference.
2. The majority of American prisoners (between 80 and 100%, depending on the study consulted) also have a stated religious preference.
3. A disproportionately high number of prisoners were not in any way practicing religionists prior to incarceration. That is, they exhibited none of the standard sociological measures of religiosity, such as regular prayer, scripture study, and attendance at worship services.
Thus, some commentators on one side have claimed that being religious is associated with incarceration. This is based only on religious preference statistics. American sociologists are well aware that nearly all Americans profess a religious preference. But there is a major difference between those who are actually religious affiliated, that is, members of a congregation (approx. 45 to 65% of the population, varying by region), and those who merely profess a preference, likely the name of the denomination that their parents of grandparents were a part of. (One of the best discussions of this phenomenon can be found in The Churching of America, 1776-1990, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark; New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.)
Commentators supportive of religious involvement invariably point to participation in religion (being affiliated), rather than having a stated (and quite possibly meaningless) religious preference as showing being a statistically strong deterent to crime.
I have tried to find a percentage of evangelicals in prison and have not succeeded. I suspect that, due to the nature of the description of an evangelical, that most evangelicals found in prison were converted after incarceration. I would welcome a good source of information that could nail that down more thoroughly but so far haven't found one.
But evangelicals have founded scores of ministries aimed at converting prisoners to Christ and reducing the recidivism rates of prisoners and changing lives. I have a couple of good friends who work in that ministry, one of whom has been doing it for better than 15 years. He would tell you that very few evangelicals commit crimes that take them to prison, but often prisoners can be converted. You know the old saying, "no atheists in foxholes" also applies to a lesser extent to the prison population.
So now I have addressed this matter at length. This means I can now go back to more important matters and I will do so with the next post.