Morality, life's blessings and religion. Part 4 Is Jesusland more moral?
I have been trying to compare the most religious states in America with the least religious states. My comparison has divided the US into two groups. One is Jesusland and the other is the Secular States of America. Using church membership statistics I have identified the 11 states that are least religious and the 11 that are most religious. More specifically I identify on the basis of religious beliefs more akin to theocracy versus people who have a more secular view of government.
For instance fundamentalists tend to be very theocratic. Anglicans tend to be the opposite. Catholics are a mixed lot but in my experience most don’t use their religion as the foundation for public policy beliefs and polls showing most American catholics disagree with the Vatican on issues like divorce is one indication. Catholics are far less theocratic than Baptists these days. To identify the Secular State we looked at the percentage of state residents saying they had no religion. If this percentage were relatively high, and if the percentage of fundamentalists were very low then the state qualified as one of our Secular States instead of part of Jesusland.
What we are not measuring is how states voted in the last election. Some of our Secular States voted Republican but I believe all the Jesusland states did though I have not verified that. I think this will turn out to be the case because we are measuring the inclination toward a theocratic state or toward a secular one. And Republicans are openly big government, theocratically inclined these days. Democrats are big government, secularly inclined. While I prefer the later to the former I don’t feel that way in any dramatic proportion. I have never supported the Democrats until the last presidential election. I just now prefer them to the Republicans. That could switch once the Republicans are rid of Bush. But I will discuss more of this in the summation
After dividing the states by their inclination towards theocracy or secularism I then looked at three measures of “God’s blessing” only to find that the secular states were better off on all three measures than the Jesusland states. Now I want to look at some statistics that indicate the moral states of our two regions. Are the highly fundamentalist states more “moral” than the secular states? I don’t know for sure. As I said I’m writing in real time basically editing only for spelling as an experiment to see if my theory hold ups. If not you will see it here yourself.
Jesusland advocates tell us that morality is intimately tied to religious beliefs. Without religion there is no morality. They are also big advocates of abstinence for everyone but married couples with marriage limited to heterosexual couples only. I want to look at the morality issues and so I am searching for stats on various behaviours. First I want to see if teen pregnancy is lower or higher in the Jesusland states. Since the states were sorted on religious beliefs only I don’t know yet how this will turn out.
This appears easy. My google search immediately turns up a report by the Guttmacher Institute on teen pregnancy trends in the US and the various states. On page 13 I find something very close to what I’m looking for: the pregnancy rate in each states for teens 15 to 19 in the year 2000. I would prefer it to be 19 and for it to be more recent but since religiosity didn’t just happen over night this should be relatively similar to the trends today. We shall see if the children of “god fearing” folk are less inclined to get pregnant or more inclined to do so. After inputting the data and sorting it here is what I get:
North Carolina 95
NEW JERSEY 90
South Carolina 89
RHODE ISLAND 67
NEW HAMPSHIRE 47
Of the 11 states with the highest pregnancy rate, of the 22 we are looking at, we find that nine of the worst states are in Jesusland. Meanwhile nine of the states with the lowest pregnancy rtes are in the Secular States of America. If you look at the extremes you will see that the children of Mississippi are more than twice a likely to get pregnant than the ones in Vermont. The eleven Jesusland states have a pregnancy rate average of 91.27 while the eleven Secular States average 74.9. A rather dramatic difference.
This raises the question of abortion. I wonder how religiosity impacts abortion rates. Now this one is a bit more difficult to interpret I think because Jesusland states make it more difficult to abort in many ways. If you put obstacles in the way of abortion you will ought to have fewer of them. For that reason alone I would think the abortion rates should be lower in the Jesusland states. After all it is easy to get pregnant with state interference but much harder to abort with it. I’m don’t think what we will find will necessarily mean much but it will be interesting to see and since the numbers are on the same page of the report it is easy to do.
47 NEW JERSEY
23 RHODE ISLAND
22 North Carolina
17 NEW HAMPSHIRE
17 South Carolina
It’s a bit more mixed than I would have guessed. I would have assumed the legal restrictions Jesusland stats impose along with parental control over teens would have meant the abortion rate in all eleven of the states would be much lower. In other words I would have thought that the Jesusland states would all be in the lowest have while the Secular States would all be in the higher half. But three of the secular states are clearly in the lower half. I think all we have measured is legal restrictions on abortion and not the moral climate of the young per se.
Surely one area of morality, perhaps the key area, is not what people do in the sex lives but how they treat other people. And this means measuring crime rates specifically violent crimes against others and property related crimes. We have a nice map, at the top of the page, showing us these statistics together which I have reproduced above and which can also be seen in larger format by clicking on it, it shows the crime stats on that page. The crime rates here are violent and property crimes per 100,000 population. Here are the figures with the most criminally prone states first.
South Carolina 5289
North Carolina 4608
RHODE ISLAND 3131
NEW JERSEY 2785
NEW HAMPSHIRE 2207
Again breaking the list of 22 states into half we find that of the eleven most crime prone states surveyed nine of them are in Jesusland while nine of least crime prone are in the SSA. What surprises me is that Washington and Oregon are so bad crime wise. I was also surprised Tennessee was so bad. It does appear that increased religiosity does not prevent crime. If it did the Jesusland states should have consistently outperformed the Secular States when, in fact, the reverse is true. The averages are rather shocking. The eleven Jesusland states we survey have a crime rate of 4542.72 victims for every 100,000 population. The Secular States are 3351.8 per 100,000. I believe that means the crime rates are about one third higher in the Jesusland states.
Finally, for this section at least, I want to look at two other violations of human presented: murder and rape. Are people living in Jesusland more likely to murder and rape than their counterparts in the Secular States? At first one would think if the total crime rate is higher in Jesusland that this would hold true. It might but it might not. It could be that the Jesusland residents are more prone to theft and assault while the Secularists are more prone to murder rape. So what I am doing is looking at the most violent type of crimes only. It could tell a different story. And to find those numbers I went here.
If you want the stats by state you have to go to each state page individually. If you want to be fair you have to adjust for population size so scroll down to the bottom of the page for the rates per 100,000 which is what I am using. I am using the last statistic provided which are for 2000. I will first look at rape statistics. Are Jesusland residents less likely to rape someone?
NEW HAMPSHIRE 42.2
RHODE ISLAND 39.3
South Carolina 37.7
North Carolina 27.1
NEW JERSEY 16.1
My first view of the numbers seems to show that the distribution on rape is pretty evenly spread. Of the eleven states with the highest rape rates six are from Jesusland and five are Secular States. Of the those with the lowest rape rates six are from the Secular States and five from Jesusland. There are a couple of surprise. I would have thought California would be worse having more major cities than any other state in this survey. In fact that factor ought to make California more prone for social problems in general. But California does relatively well on rape rates while New Hampshire and Washington and Rhode Island do poorly. But in general the distribution seems fairly even split with the Secular States doing slightly better. Averaging the rates will tell us if that is the case. What we find then is that chances of being raped in a Jesusland state is slightly higher. The average rape rate in our Jesusland states is 33.1 while in the Secular States it is 31.9. So Jesusland is slightly worse off.
Murder is obviously the worst crime one can perform. So how do things stack up there?
7.0 North Carolina
5.8 South Carolina
4.3 RHODE ISLAND
3.4 NEW JERSEY
1.8 NEW HAMPSHIRE
Unlike rape rates the murder rates are far, far higher in Jesusland than in the Secular States. The eleven worst states when it comes to murder include ten that from Jesusland and only one of the Secular States, California. But California has more major cities than any other state on the list including Los Angeles the largest city in the US. So one would expect crime rates to be higher there. And though California is in the worst half there are still seven Jesusland states with worse murder rates and of them only Georgia, with Atlanta, has the “big city” excuse. It appears the Jesusland folk are much more likely to kill someone than the more “godless” secularists. The magnitude of the difference will be more clear with averaging. In Jesusland, in any one year 6.76 people per 100,000 are murdered. In the Secular States the rate 2.7. That means the Jesusland residents are 250% more likely to kill someone. So much for “thou shalt not murder.”
I will point out that the statistic pages I reference have other crimes which you can use instead. So you are free to see if these trends hold true elsewhere. There are numerous ways you can refine things. I will talk more about them in the conclusions.