Statistics and God

I was listening to a somewhat boring sermon the other week and as the preacher was droning on, all I could think of was this sf story I'd read some years ago, that some random mental association had brought up. Not the story itself but a few lines in it. By Arthur Clarke I think. In the book there was a reference to an "old style religion called christainity" which had been debunked by statistical analysis.

Now before you laugh, his premise was valid and still is, I guess. What he proposed was that if christianity was "real" then prayers would be answered God would look after "His people". Fine. He (or the character on the book) then went on to say that statisticians had compared the % of christians who suffered certain types of accidents and disasters with % of those who were not ... and the figure was the same in both cases, thus the inescapable (?) conclusion was that not only did God not answer prayers but that he did not protect his people from harm any more than he did non-christians. Thus, presumably, there was no God. It was an interesting hypothesis, though untestable at the time the book was written. Not so now, in a limited way. Incidently, the idea also has relevance to a problem many people have with christianity - if it's real why doesn't God answer prayers more often? The number of times I've heard that said ...

The idea I had was to compare, in a given geographical region, the insurance claims made by those who attended church with those who did not. Not all church goer's would be christians, but there would be enuf to make the number of claims per policies held different for church goers than for non church goers .. assuming that God did keep his people from harm. It would be easy to do, in fact the data prolly already exists and if it doesn't then a simple survey of several 1000 church goers would suffice. If christians made less insurance claims per policy than non-christians then it would be clear and hard proof that there was something strange about christians (or church goers, apart from the obvious that they go to church), the most obvious reason being that there is a God.

It's so simple and so clear cut that I wonder why no one has done it .. or if they have, why no one has heard of it. Could it be that there is no difference? That would not mean that God does not exist (as the novel claimed, tho' it used different statistical databases), merely that the often heard claim that God looks over christians and blesses them in this life, keeping them from harm, is not true. It also has significance for prayers of protection from harm either to oneself or to one's property. Do they get answered or not?

Another database that could be used would be car accident injuries. Are christians less often injured in car accidents than non-christians? Or how about deaths in war? Do christian soldiers have a better survival rate? There are so many possible databases that one could use that the fact that I've heard nothing indicates that there is prolly no difference. Thus the evidence, by it's absence, indicates that God does not provide christians from harm to themselves or property any more than he does to non christians. Incidently, knowing how vigilant insurance companies are, if any such differences did exist then they would have noticed it long ago and, here at least, would have offered cheaper insurance premiums for christians. They don't (but do for other groups that have fewer incidents), thus there is NO such difference.

Unlike Arthur Clarke I don't take that as meaning there is no God, merely that christians are not blessed physically or materially in this life _because_ they are christians. Such blessings come to people merely by the action of "fate". Or chance if you prefer. Be they christian or not.

Return to the Rant and Rave page

Return to my home page