Religious People Are NOT Better Citizens, Community Members Are

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I don’t know what it means when your friends start feeding you things to write about, but it’s a good sign when they give you things you actually want to write about. Thanks Gladys! The lesson to be learned in this post is get the whole story.

According to The Christian Century: “Congregants Make Better Citizens, Says New Study

The claim of the headline is a bit different than the claim in this blog post title. A careful reading reveals why.

The article first claims that “people of faith are better citizens and better neighbors.”

Then the article claims that “religious people may be God’s gift to civic engagement.”

Then the article tries to clarify that with the details of the report:

The scholars say their studies found that religious Americans are three to four times more likely to be involved in their community than nonreligious Americans. They are more apt to work on community projects, belong to voluntary associations, attend public meetings, vote in local elections, attend protest demonstrations and political rallies and donate time and money to causes—including secular ones.

At the same time, Putnam and Campbell say, their data show that religious people are “nicer”: they carry packages for people, don’t mind folks cutting ahead in lines and give money to panhandlers.

And, if all of that weren’t enough, these scholars go so far as to say that the “link between religion and civic activism is causal.”

Okay, are we far enough down the article that people stopped reading? Okay, let’s hope no one notices this next part:

The reason for the increased civic engagement may come as a surprise to religious leaders. It has nothing to do with ideas of divine judgment or with trying to secure a seat in heaven. Rather, it’s the relationships that people make in their churches, mosques, synagogues and temples that draw them into community activism.

Ah, so, now the accuracy of my headline is revealed. Now, if you scroll ALLLLLLLL the way down to the bottom of the article, you see the worst-kept secrets. (I’m surprised they even made it into the article at all.)

Ron Millar, acting director of the Secular Coalition of America, said that non theists are just as likely to volunteer for worthy causes as believers. For example, he noted that the Secular Student Alliance went to New Orleans to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity a few years ago.

“We’re out there,” Millar said. “We just don’t say we’re driven by our nonbelief in God to do good work.”

So, being connected to communities and having healthy relationships motivates people to be better citizens. I can agree with that. Glad we arrived at the truth in that article!

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