Search This Blog

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Debates, we have debates! Christians in US prisons?

"It's your lack of willingness to debate (instead simply avoiding questions and pushing forward with new topics instead of engaging the issues raised) that makes a dialogue difficult. For example, why claim your "opinion" that there are only 11% Christians in the prison population when you have no data to base this on, and apparently no way to defend your reasoning? Could it be because you don't feel confident in an actual debate?"

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)

Wow, that is a big number! But you look within the numbers and you see that there is a problem with the definition of "Christian."

  • Half of born again Christians (46%) agree that Satan is "not a living being but is a symbol of evil." (2005)
That cuts the 45% in half, since this is an unbiblical view and directly contradicts the teaching of Christ. Remember, a Christian is a disciple of Christ!

  • About one-third of born agains (33%) believe that if a person is good enough they can earn a place in Heaven. (2005)
This directly contradicts Jesus, who said that, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." So that would eliminate 33% right there.
  • 28% of born agains agree that "while he lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people," compared to 42% of all adults. (2005)
That eliminated 28%.
  • 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)
Only 32% believe in moral absolutes. That would take 45% down to 14.4% just by itself, without adding the disclaimers. How are we to know what percentage of the population is actually Christian?????

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
So my definition of Christian, and the Bible's, is most closely associated today with the term, "Evangelical." Trying to find a percentage of evangelicals in jail is hard, since most of them seem to be either part of a ministry TO inmates, if they are in the US, or have been jailed in foreign lands simply for the crime of BEING and evangelical!

I now suspect my quick and offhand guess at 11% was way too high. Maybe more like 1%. Here is another voice:

Prison Incarceration and Religious Preference

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, 1999

Source: 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://195.7.48.75/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.











5 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. First of all, thank you for being honest about the fact that you simply made the 11% up. I'm still a little puzzled why a "quick and off-hand guess", as you put it, would result in something like 11%, instead of a round number, like, say, 10% or 15%. I suspect that you "calculated" it somehow, but later realized that your calculations were simply wrong. Not that it matters; your admission that it was fiction settles the matter much as we suspected.

2. I take it that you're now happy to characterize the US as a secular nation, not a Christian nation? I mean, 9%... that's not exactly a million miles away from the number of full-on atheists, is it? And a whole lotta confused people who think they're Christians but aren't... They go to church and all that (at least so they say), but for you they just don't count... They will not be happy campers when they find themselves in hell.

Secular nation it is.

3. "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."

Seeing as I listed this as part of a lengthy list, I don't see why it needs to be a priority over all the other issues. It was merely a nicely visible example of you making stuff up and using self-serving definitions as the wind blows. Your confession is appreciated.

4. Radar now: "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."

Radar not so long ago: "My figures show that up to 11% of the prison population is Christian, many of whom were converted after being jailed." ("A town where God was not allowed (or, an EAE paradise)")

Does this count as bearing false witness? Is lying okay with you?

And if lying is okay with you, does that mean you're still one of those "real" Christians you're talking about? Or is it okay if you're doing it for Jesus? (One of those weird "absolute laws"...)

5. "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?"

Well, I was just responding to some of those points yesterday (see the comments on your post "Why did the Ice Core man get 'Iced'?"), so respond whenever you'd like.

For starters, who says matter came from non-matter (ex nihilo)?

I also notice that you don't mention wanting to discuss other matters, such as a young Earth being supported by tree rings and ice cores. Let me guess: you realized that that doesn't add up for a YEC position either...

"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 think we've addressed this numerous times, Radar: yes, there are plenty of world views, and we're absolutely not averse to acknowledging that we have points of view, contrary to your claim.

When it comes to science, however, the world views stay at the door, and certain methods are used - by Christians, Jews, what have you. These methods were even used by all the non-atheist scientists you listed not so long ago. They are put in place so that one can compare findings instead of constantly "agreeing to disagree", which would bring scientific progress to a screeching halt. This is why large numbers of Christians, Jews etc. freely engage in the scientific method while keeping their religious beliefs at home.

The only people for whom this is a problem are people like yourself who have a preconceived notion of what the results should be and are disappointed when the facts don't match their views. Believe me, if YECs could present a 6,000 year timeline that actually could account for ice cores, tree rings, and radiometric dating, I would be quite interested and open-minded.

The chances of such a timeline being created in light of the overwhelming evidence indicating an old Earth are vanishingly small at this point, of course, even if you did claim, for some odd reason that I can't fathom, that you had provided a link to it. What was that about?

-- creeper

Lava said...

The percentage of Christians in jails? That seems pretty irrelevant. Not sure why that is such an issue for some of these commenters.

The actual percent is pretty irrelevant, I'll give you that.

The issue here comes down to credibility. If you are going to present a point or a fact, then it should be verifiable and more likely then not true. Do you understand why that might be a big issue?

Anonymous said...

Oh man, this blog is some seriously good stuff. Being Canadian, and I'm not saying that it isn't here too, but the level of Christian Fanaticism present in the US is, at times, rather shocking. I mean, here you have someone, appearing to be intelligent, actually purporting, that somehow "the facts" support a Young Earth hypothesis, and to top it off, is willing to attempt to debate such topics with individuals that have clearly studied these subjects in some way. Long live the Internets!

I say, kudos to Radar for providing the venue and throwing out his "pitches" and to creeper (and others) for consistently knocking 'em out of the park.

I was waiting for "creeper" to post another one of those crushing comments to Radar's latest ridiculous post and BANG, one salient relevant well thought out counterpoint after another.

I actually stumbled across this blog about a week ago when doing some research on the National Post's Ice Core article (Thanks again to creeper for the great Boojums post by-the-way) and after checking things out here at Radaractive, I am really happy that Mr. Creeper (and others) have decided to regularly visit this site in order to confront the flawed logic of it's mondo-religious proprietor.

Not that much more needs to be said concerning this topic but I have a question for Radar. Radar, if when you produced your now infamous 11% "statistic", by "Christian" you meant "Evangelical or Born Again Christian", why didn't you just say that? I mean, you have to admit that your "definition" of the term Christian (in that to really be Christian one needs to a) believe in Satan the living being, b) believe Gandhi and his ilk (i.e. non Christian do-gooders) are rejected at the pearly gates because they don't KNOW Jesus, c) believe that Jesus "the man" was definitely NOT a sinner - at all, and d) believe in "moral absolutes" - whatever that means) is hardly a universal interpretation and would result in a serious misinterpretation of your point. N'est-ce Pas?

Canucklehead

Anonymous said...

Canucklehead,

the short answer to your question is that Radar has more pride than sense. It's not particularly Christian of him (lying for Jesus?!), but there you go.

-- creeper

Term Papers said...

I have been visiting various blogs for my term papers writing research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information... Regards