Considering the implications of the American Religious Identity Survey’s finding that non-Christianity has been on the rise in the United States over the last twenty years, I wrote an article about the association between poverty and rate of Christianity among the 48 contiguous states (Hawaii and Alaska weren’t included in ARIS). The claims of Prosperity Gospel preachers, that Christians will be more wealthy than non-Christians, because of the assistance of their God, are strongly contradicted by the facts. Placing census data along with the results of ARIS, it’s clear that the states with the highest rate of Christianity are also the poorest group of states in the union.
A reader objected to the conclusion, that Christianity is not linked with prosperity. She wrote, “True prosperity means that you are successful in every area of your life including health, relationships, and financially. Christians are supposed to be prosperous in every area of our lives.” Of course, given that she includes financial prosperity in her definition of “true prosperity” as an essential component, the main point holds – if Christians are not more financially prosperous than non-Christians, the promise of the Prosperity Gospel preachers is proven to be a sham.
But, let’s accept the point that prosperity can be seen as something more than merely financial wealth. Sure, possession of health and strong social relationships can be seen as part of prosperity.
Our reader might have presumed we would accept that Christians enjoy greater health and stronger social relationships than other people, thus counteracting the relative financial poverty of states where Christians exist in greater proportions. That’s not how we do things here at Irregular Times, though. We like to look at things critically, and so I’m going to do my best to examine whether the rate of Christianity in a state is a good predictor of whether the residents of that state are more healthy and socially secure than people in states where Christianity is less common.
I’ll start out with health, because it’s more concrete and easier to assess than quality of relationships (but don’t worry, I’ll get to this concept of social relationships eventually). Let’s start out with a measurement of health that I hope most people could agree is important: Child mortality. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation passes along data on rates of child mortality, by state, gathered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. I’ve taken that data, and combined it with the rates of self-described Christianity, to create the following scatter plot graph:
Each dot in this graph is one of the 48 contiguous states in the USA. As you go from left to right, you get a higher rate of child mortality. As you go from down to up, you get a higher rate of Christianity.
As you can see, there’s a pattern in the distribution of these dots. There are a few outlier states, but a best fit line is easy to draw on this graph, describing a gentle slope upward, from left to right. The trend seen on this graph is that the greater percent of Christians a state has, the higher rate of child death that state has. The 10 states with the highest rates of Christianity have an annual rate of 26 deaths per 100,000 children. The 10 states with the lowest rates of Christianity have an annual rate of 18.4 deaths per 100,000 children.
Quibble if you like about the exact slope of that best fit line, but the fact is that it contradicts the promise of the Prosperity Gospel preachers, who say that God wants people to prosper, and helps people prosper better after they accept Jesus Christ as savior. If the Prosperity Gospel’s claims were true, then we would see a best fit line sloping downward from left to right, with states with the highest proportion of Christians enjoying the lowest rates of child deaths. This extremely precious measurement of human prosperity goes down as a state’s Christianity increases.