Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Religion = immorality

According to this brilliant article, "religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality."

There are so many things wrong with this that it's difficult to sort them out. I think there are at least 3 main types of problems with such an analysis. The first problem is isolating religious beliefs and then granting them causal powers instead of looking for other explanations, factors and relationships. The second is that the US is a much more diverse society than most of the countries of Europe: we're 13% black, 14% Hispanic, 6% Asian, a whole bunch of white, and then some other, and we've only been a country for 229 years. The third problem is that people don't even agree on what "social problems" are.

Someone like Mair tell me what kind of study you'd have to do and what kind of results you'd have to get in a nation of 297, 288,959 people to prove that, societally speaking, religious beliefs cause STDs.

That article made me angry, the way that redhurt feels when he watches Tom Brokaw.


At 7:37 PM, Blogger BrianESpilner said...

I really don't see how the correlations can be drawn between religion and disfunctionality. The US is certainly disfucntional but because we believe in a creator?? I don't think so, I'm almost as outraged as you Charles, but at the same time is anybody really going to take an article like that seriously?

At 9:28 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Yeah, I'd be angry too. That's just irresponsible and stupid. Here's another one: why does and evangelical distrust for darwin translate into the US being more religious than Britian? I'm not arguing that we aren't - only that our belief on origins is a really stupid and weird way to prove it. How about statistics on church attendance, surveys about belief in God?

Apparently this guy doesn't remember the increidbly bad effects that materialism and atheism had on the Soviet Union.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I guess my point is that to tie religion or atheism to a country's success is difficult, but that history seems to show that 1.) religion leads to wildly varying results, depending on who's leading the religion and how the masses interpret it, and 2.) atheism on a grand and total scale is sometimes very bad. It's my impression that most Europeans are nominal deists - they believe in a god but don't think it matters much what they do as long as it supports love and peace and other good things like that. am I wrong? Are they real atheists, or "happy atheists" really maintaining a social religion of niceness?

At 8:55 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

I don't think most Europeans are nominal deists--I mean, I know you weren't putting that out as a scholarly point that you'd like to defend to the death, but I think there is too much diversity in Europe for that. Depending on how you count, there are about 50 countries in Europe. You have conservative nations like Ireland, Spain, Italy and Poland, more secular, liberal nations like France and Germany, and countries that fall somewhere in the middle, like England. France, Germany, the Netherlands and England have huge Muslim populations.

I don't think Europeans are as "liberal" as people think they are, because I think European citizens tend to have combinations of beliefs that you wouldn't find in the US. We still have our problems with racism, but I don't think any country in Europe has achieved the integration of ethnicity that we have, for example. You also still have countries with an established church. France didn't even de-establish Catholicism as the official state religion until 1905, 129 years after we did. Ha.

The wild card in all of this is that whatever you might think about religion, Europeans just aren't having babies anymore. I went to the CIA World Factbook, grabbed the population growth rate data, sorted by rate, took out countries with small populations, and here's what I got.

Bottom 30:

Bulgaria -0.89%
Latvia -0.69%
Estonia -0.65%
Ukraine -0.63%
Russia -0.37%
Georgia -0.35%
South Africa -0.31%
Lithuania -0.30%
Hungary -0.26%
Armenia -0.25%
Romania -0.12%
Belarus -0.09%
Czech Republic -0.05%
Slovenia -0.03%
Croatia -0.02%
Greenland -0.02%
Tokelau -0.01%
Botswana 0%
Germany 0%
Niue 0%
Holy See (Vatican City) 0.01%
Poland 0.03%
Serbia and Montenegro 0.03%
Japan 0.05%
Italy 0.07%
Lesotho 0.08%
Austria 0.11%
Belgium 0.15%
Slovakia 0.15%
Spain 0.15%

Top 30:

Nigeria 2.37%
Equatorial Guinea 2.42%
Laos 2.42%
Rwanda 2.43%
Gabon 2.45%
Paraguay 2.48%
Senegal 2.48%
Eritrea 2.51%
Burkina Faso 2.53%
Jordan 2.56%
Kenya 2.56%
Guatemala 2.57%
Sudan 2.60%
Qatar 2.61%
Niger 2.63%
Liberia 2.64%
Iraq 2.70%
Mali 2.74%
Benin 2.82%
Mauritania 2.90%
Gambia, The 2.93%
Chad 2.95%
Congo, Democratic Republic of the 2.98%
Madagascar 3.03%
Uganda 3.31%
Oman 3.32%
Somalia 3.38%
Kuwait 3.44%
Yemen 3.45%
Afghanistan 4.77%

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I saw this earlier and didn't think much of it until I read this post...

"This excellent issue of the American Enterprise, which collects some fascinating data contrasting North America and continental Europe. The most arresting are poll data on the spiritual state of the two continents: 57% of Americans say they are "very satisfied" with their lives - as opposed to 14% of French, 17% of Germans, and 16% of Italians. Only 8% of Americans describe themselves as "not very satisfied" or "not at all satisfied," as opposed to 18% of French, 16% of Germans, and 20% of Italians.

Only 32% of Americans agree that success is determined by forces outside our control. But 54% of French agree with that statement, as do 68% of Germans, and 66% of Italians.

Between 2025 and 2050, the population of Europe is projected by the EU to shrink by some 20 million people."


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