Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Review: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told by Bradley R.E. Wright

This was an interesting yet somewhat confusing book. The author is a sociologist who attempts to present data to show that the state of Christianity is much better than most people tend to believe. He suggests that Christians are not as "bad" as the surveys seem to indicate. We are actually pretty decent folk who are more respected by society today than 20 years ago.

While I don't argue much with his conclusions, I was a little surprised as to how he came to those conclusions.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian MediaIn chapter 1 (entitled Why Do We Hear So Much Bad News About Christianity?), Mr. Wright shows how so many of the surveys we see and hear about in the media are not to be believed. Why? Because the data is either skewed to reflect certain presuppositions, the questions themselves are not clear or are limited in their exact meaning, or the interpretations of the data are flawed because of so many variables that exist in the reasons why the questions were answered in a certain way. Here is an example from the book:

"...later in this book you'll read that Christians are significantly less likely to smoke marijuana than non-Christians. This could mean that Christianity could make people less likely to smoke marijuana. It could also mean that people who smoke marijuana are less apt to join Christianity. Or maybe Christians who smoke marijuana are more likely to leave their faith. Finally, it could be that some underlying characteristic, say a propensity for conventional behavior, both increases churchgoing while decreasing sustance abuse, so there might be no causal relationship between the two at all."

In other words, who can we trust when looking at surveys about religion/Christianity? How can we accurately interpret them with so many variables? How do we know what the results of the surveys actually say about Christians and our society?

Here's where the confusing part came for me. The rest of the book was dedicated to proving the state of Christianity by using data from surveys! The author appeared to be contradicting himself by presenting data from the very medium he warned us was unreliable at best and untruthful at worst. His use of survey results was not convincing. He was doing the very thing that he had said in the first chapter was problematic. He did say he likes statistics, but I did not see how he used them any better than anyone else in showing the truth of the matter.

The author had a few funny moments. Here is one, in defense of why you should read this book:

"In writing this, I realize that I may have made a strategic error in discussing why I have written this book: I have neglected to add a fear appeal. So maybe no one will read it. But it's not too late, so here it goes. You should read this book because 'there is a deeply disturbing trend of bad statistics that is sabotaging American Christianity and destroying the American way of life, and if you ignore it your entire body will soon be covered with boils. The good news, however, is that if you buy this book and read it carefully, you will avoid this calamity; plus you'll live longer, have fresh breath, and your kitchen knives will always stay sharp.'"

How's that for a guarantee?

The book is full of statistical data and graphs. If you like those kinds of things, then maybe you will enjoy this book. I, however, could not stay interested in it for very long. Some of the info was helpful, but most was not. I rate this book 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

To read more about this book on Amazon, click on the book cover above.

(I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

2 comments:

Nicola said...

Sounds like it could have been an interesting topic to tackle. But I agree about the use of statistics and polls. I never trust them, they are always skewed towards whoever is taking them. As much as I would love to be able to believe data based on Christian surveys/polls, they are just as apt to be skewed.

I sometimes take polls over the phone (out of curiosity or to give an opposing view if its about something I'm against) but often end up having to decline to answer as a particular question will not allow me to answer correctly, either of my given choices are not viable. The problem is that most people pick the lesser of two evils.

Carrie said...

Yeah, I'm with Nicole - it's amazing how many polls do not allow you to answer questions correctly.

This book sounds intriguing - and confusing, as you say! But definitely intriguing.