Christians benefit society because their religious beliefs inform their behavior. This favorable behavior means Christians save society considerable money when compared to their secular counterparts.
We will go over the areas where Christian behavior benefits society and attempt to derive a rough estimate of cash savings.
A huge literature on the financial costs of crime is available but many of these only evaluate a part of the cost. There is a tremendous infrastructure involved in dealing with criminal behavior including the court system, police, courts, prisons, etc. Clearly, the cost of crime in the United States runs into hundreds of billions. One estimate made in 1997 by David Anderson suggested the cost was about $1.7 trillion – a truly astronomical cost to society.
One estimate of the cost savings to society derived from Christian behavior. One crude estimate is derived from the General Social Survey study including how many Americans admit to being picked up by police. Eleven percent of all Americans admit to having been picked up by the police compared to 21 percent of those who never attend church. There would be an increase of 91 percent if all Americans were picked up at the same rate as non-believers.
From this crude estimate, it can be surmised that the savings to society from the reduced crime not committed by Christians compared to their non-religious citizens saves society hundreds of billions of dollars at least.
Home and Religious Schooling
There are about 1.3 million students being homeschooled, another 2 million are in Catholic school, and 3 million in Protestant and Jewish schools. This provides a total of about 6.1 million students receiving their education outside of government schools.
Since the annual cost of educating a student in government schools is about $10,000, children not requiring government eduction produces a total of $630 million savings to the government. But that is not all; parents of children enrolled in education outside of government schools still have to pay taxes to support other students not so fortunate.
The Head Start Program could also be eliminated as it produces no long-term real benefit to students. This would result in a savings of more than $8 billion a year. A significant reduction in the education gap could be resolved if this money were spent on school voucher programs which do demonstrate improved educational outcomes.
The cost of mental health problems is estimated to cost society about $300 by the National Institute of Mental Health – a federal agency.
It is difficult to develop a statistic to determine the value of religious belief in the reduction of mental illness. However, if everybody scored as high on the psychic adequacy scale as non-attenders, there would be an increase in mental illness by about 77 percent. Using similar studies, there would be an increase in neuroses by about 67 percent. The Christian benefit to society by the reduction in mental illness is obviously tremendous.
The physical health of Christians has been demonstrated to be superior to those who do not attend religious services. The Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medical Services noted that Americans spend $2.5 trillion on their health.
Those who never attend church have a seven percent reduction in their life expectancy compared to those who attend church on a weekly basis. Weekly church attenders have reduced illness rates compared to those who never attend a church which would likely result in a reduction of cost even though church attenders tend to live longer.
One study evaluated the risk of death during a decade of life among adults between 2004 and 2014. The researchers evaluated multiple variables in their statistical analysis including religious attendance, the importance of religion, religious affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity, education, and income levels. They found that,
After adjustment for confounders, attendance at religious services had a dose-response relationship with mortality, such taht respondents who attended frequently (at least once a week) had a 40 percent lower hazard of mortality … compared with those who never attended.
Christians benefit society by being healthier and requiring less care by physicians and fewer hospitalizations.
Charitable Contributions show how Christians Benefit Society
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans donated $211 billion to charities in 2010. Of this amount, $74 billion went to religious organizations while $137 billion went to secular causes. According to data derived from the General Social Survey in 2002, 87 percent of those who attended church weekly gave money to a charity in the prior year compared to only 60 percent of those who never attend church.
Put another way, attending church weekly means you are 47 percent more likely to give money to charity if you go to church on a weekly basis than if you do not go to church at all.
This effect held up in both women and men, and whites and African Americans. These findings are also consistent with considerable recent literature on charitable donations.
The benefit to society of increased Christian giving to both religious and secular charities is obvious.
The Corporation for National and Community Service – a government institution – estimated that Americans volunteered about 8.1 billion hours of service. The approximate value of this volunteer effort was about $169 billion. Data from the Gallup World Poll produced data for the United States showing that 57 percent of church attendees volunteered their time in the past month while only 31 percent of those who never attended church volunteered.
The beneficial effect of increased volunteerism among churchgoers compared to those who never attend church seems to be obvious.
The US Department of Labor estimates that the cost of federal and state governments for unemployment is about $100 billion a year. This does not include the costs of lost wages and benefits.
The data also show that about 30 percent of Americans have been unemployed at some time, while about 38 percent of those who do not attend church have been unemployed in the past.
These data suggest that being involved in church produces a reduction in unemployment by about 27 percent. This produces obvious cost savings to society, as well as likely a reduction in crime and mental illness that is often associated with unemployment.
The combined federal and state expenditures for those on various welfare programs totaled $647 billion in 2010 according to the Government Accounting Office. The data show that 36percent of all Americans have ever been on welfare and that 43 percent of those who never attend church have been on welfare. This indicates that one factor for reduction in welfare is church attendance – and the societal benefits that go with it.
Those who are believers get in trouble less with the law, spend less time in jail, and have a better education than those who do not. These are all likely contributing factors to the reason why religious people spend less time receiving welfare from their government.
How Christians Benefit Society Summary
Religious belief carries a significant benefit to society. Religious people contribute more than do the non-believers, give more to secular (and religious) charity, are in trouble less, have more stable marriages, are more educated, receive less welfare, are healthier and wealthier.
The long-term benefits of a stable society are self-evident. Far from being a detriment to the advancement of society, religious belief contributes to its long-term well being.