Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What would we be if we were godless?

I thought this was really interesting. I'm just going to put the whole damn thing here because it's a fascinating idea and, well, okay, because I can.

(Note: this is just one study, so take it with a big grain of salt).

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side':

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

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.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states,” he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I really, really want to believe that spirituality is a powerful and positive part of life, but then I need to remember that spirituality and religion are not synonymous. And religion to me may be Christmas Eve services and kind pastors and jubilant Easter celebrations and friendly faces ... but, no, that was what religion was to me. Now "religion" also includes hateful rhetoric, book banning, exclusiveness, censorship and frustration.

Just think about it for one second: what if we were a godless country? What would happen? I want to say despair, but how many religious battles would have been stopped?

It's an interesting thought. A hard one, yes, but also an interesting one. Eh, perhaps I just shouldn't think at night.


Blogger the roommate said...

I'm reminded of one of the first things we did in AP Statistics. It was an example that "showed" that more firemen cause more property damage when sent to a burning house. Therefore more firemen are worse.
The missing piece of information, of course, was that more fireman were sent when the fires were bigger.
I'm not saying religion is the firemen, I'm just saying, you know "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."
I didn't see anything in what was stated that showed what the corrolation might be between the rates of things and religous beliefs. America probably also has more hispanic people than England. We could blame that. What is here are two seperate facts, and some huge suppositions.
And what does "religion" mean? Let us not forget that religion is not defined as conservative Christianity. Wicca is one, Buddhism, Taoism, I won't go on I'm just saying-blaming religion is like saying all weather is evil because sometimes there are hurricanes or tsunamis.

8:40 AM

Blogger Ion said...

To be totally clinical about it, I think religion is homo sapiens' way of compensating for the loss of single-minded drive for survival because, let's face it, very few other animals don't have to worry about surviving. We all take it for granted that we'll at least make it to 70. All things in Nature are goal oriented: make it until tomorrow, make babies, pull the termites out of their hills. We don't have all-consuming survival goals anymore (Well, many of us...). A Divine Judgement gives us something else, something that never goes away.

Not that that reflects too much upon what I believe.

3:30 PM


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