Monday, April 21, 2008

A new contest: Questionable statistics about Christianity

Spring is in the air, and so it's the perfect time for a new contest.

I'm thinking of doing some writing on the use of statistics about Christianity, and I'm looking for examples of people creating or using "questionable" ones--statistics about Christianity that are difficult to believe (and, on further examination, maybe false).

Here are some examples from previous posts:
- Only 4% of today's teens will grow up to be evangelical Christians.
- Only 1 in 10,000 couples who pray together ever get divorced.
- Christians have divorce rates as high as people without religious affiliation.

In fact, I would be interested in any questionable uses of empirical data.

What's the prize? How about a quart of real New England maple syrup. As I understand it, this year's run was especially good.

Want to submit a statistic? Post it as a comment or e-mail it to me at bradley.wright@Uconn.edu. If you have a source (even incomplete), that would be great.

Let the best, I mean worst, statistic win!

10 comments:

Brad Stewart said...

Here's one often cited by Evangelicals in Quebec: less than 0.5% of Quebeckers are believers. This number is rather extremely deflated -- for starters, it completely ignores the genuine, practicing Catholics here (as of 2000, about 90% of French Quebeckers self-identified as Catholic, though less than 20% of those attend mass regularly -- see Reginald Bibby. Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 2002.)

Ben Dubow said...

80% of conversions happen before age 18.

Brad Wright said...

Already have some strong entries, both these two + those mailed to me. I look forward to reading more!

J. R. Miller said...

4 out of 5 dentists agree...

Statistics can often be misleading. I have found that the only reliable statistic is the following...

"On Average 1 out of every 1 person dies"

Now we have to o this as an average because in the Old Testament Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and never dies, but Lazarus died and then was raised and eventually died again.

This stat seems fairly solid through thousands of years of history, but I cannot vouch for the other stuff being posted. :-)

Ray Fowler said...

Hmmm, I don't have a questionable Christian statistic ready at my fingertips, which is too bad, because I really love New England maple syrup.

But I do have some commenters over at my blog with questions about cause and correlation with regard to some statistics on living together that I put up last week. Stats are not my area of expertise, so feel free to give us some input if you like.

Here's the link: Statistics on Living Together Before Marriage

Thanks!
Ray

Sid said...

How about the statistic that is so easily tossed out that half of all marriages end in divorce?

thepublicandtheprivate said...

Have you already read Christian Smith's "Evangelical's Behaving Badly with Statistics" - published in B&C last year?
check it out

Miss Ann Thrope said...

First page in the May 2008 Christianity Today mag: "For every 10 men in your church...10 are struggling to balance work & family, 9 will have children who leave the church, 5 will have a serious problem with pornography, 4will get divorced, and ONLY 1 HAS A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW" It's an ad for some campaign called called fathers.com. And they promise more great satistics about men in America, all sources cited, by calling 800-929-2536....go ahead Brad, give 'em a call...

Brad Wright said...

Thanks for the comments!

The father.com looks promising...

I did see Christian Smith's essay--wow, that's a bad statistic!

David Campbell said...

73% of all statistics are made up on the spot.