Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dysfunctionality and religion.

I have referred to the Gregory Paul article, “Cross-National Correlations on Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism the Prosperous Democracies” before. It appeared in volume 7 of the the Journal of Religion & Society.

But since I was looking at the survey mentioned in the previous post I thought I’d revisit this analysis as well.

Does religiosity, particularly Christianity, improve a society? The answer seems to be that it does not. In fact there is plenty of evidence to conclude it makes people worse off.

This survey shows that to be the case. Now they used prosperous nations, which means mainly Western nations in their comparison. All of these nations have similar wealth levels and relatively similar cultures (which a few exceptions). But they are not all equally religious. The United States is by far the most religious of the prosperous nations and equally the one with the greatest levels of social problems.

Here are some of the conclusions.

First the US “is the only prosperous first world nation to retain rates of religiosity otherwise limited to the second and third worlds.” The most secular nations are Japan, the Nordic countries and France.

They find that as nations have become more secular, that is as fewer people fall for religion, homicide rates have dropped. They find “the U.S. is the only prosperous democracy that retains high homicide rates.... Similarly, theistic Portugal also has rates of homicides well above the secular developed democracy norm.”

They find: “LIfe spans tend to decrease as rates of religiosity rise, especially as a function of absolute belief.” They find, “rates of adolescent gonorrhea infection remain six to three hundred times higher in the U.S. than in less theistic, pro-evolution secular developed democracies. At all ages levels are higher in the U.S., albeit by less dramatic amounts. The U.S. also suffers from uniquely high adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, which are starting to rise again as the microbe’s resistance increases. The two main curable STDs have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia. Increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator, and negative correlation with increasing non-theism and acceptance of evolution; again rates are uniquely high in the U.S. Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data. Early adolescent pregnancy and birth have dropped in the developed democracies (Abma et al.; Singh and Darroch), but rates are two to dozens of times higher in the U.S. where the decline has been more modest. Broad correlations between decreasing theism and increasing pregnancy and birth are present, with Austria and especially Ireland being partial exceptions.”

In conclusion: “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 (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. Youth suicide is an exception to the general trend because there is not a significant relationship between it and religious or secular factors. No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional. None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction. In some cases the highly religious U.S. is an outlier in terms of societal dysfunction from less theistic but otherwise socially comparable secular developed democracies. In other cases, the correlations are strongly graded, sometimes outstandingly so.”

Now the US is not having these social problems because it is poor. A lot of people think social dysfunctionality is rooted in poverty but that is not the case. That is why given money to socially dysfunctional individuals does not improve their lives. They remain socially dysfunctional and merely have more funds with which to fund the bad habits that such dysfunctionality creates.

The Left wants to throw money at dysfunctionality. Yet the US is very wealthy yet very dysfunctional. The Right wants to claim that more religion solves social problems yet the nation with the highest level of religiosity is the most dysfunctional. Neither more welfare nor more religion seems to be the answer.


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