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New Study Reveals that Religion Does Not Lead to a Healthier Society

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posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 04:28 PM
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So, it's not exactly that 'new' (2005 I think), but I thought this might be of interest to some people:




Religious Belief & Societal Health
New Study Reveals that Religion
Does Not Lead to a Healthier Society

by Matthew Provonsha

It is commonly held that religion makes people more just, compassionate, and moral, but a new study suggests that the data belie that assumption. In fact, at first glance it would seem, religion has the opposite effect. The extensive study, “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religi-osity and Secularism in the Prosperous Demo-cracies,” published in the Journal of Religion and Society (moses.creighton.edu...) examines statistics from eighteen of the most developed democratic nations. It reveals clear correlations between various indicators of social strife and religiosity, showing that whether religion causes social strife or not, it certainly does not prevent it.

The author of the study, Gregory S. Paul, writes that it is a “first, brief look at an important subject that has been almost entirely neglected by social scientists … not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.” However, the study does show a direct correlation between religiosity and dysfunctionality, which if nothing else, disproves the widespread belief that religiosity is beneficial, that secularism is detrimental, and that widespread acceptance of evolution is harmful.

Paul begins by explaining how far his findings diverge from common assumptions. He even quotes Benjamin Franklin and Dostoevsky to show how old these common-misconceptions are. Dostoevsky wrote, “if God does not exist, then everything is permissible.” Benjamin Franklin noted, “religion will be a powerful regulator of our actions, give us peace and tranquility within our minds, and render us benevolent, useful and beneficial to others.”

To this day, the belief that religiosity is socially beneficial is widespread in America, especially amongst politicians, as Paul notes: “The current [at that time] House majority leader T. DeLay contends that high crime rates and tragedies like the Columbine assault will continue as long schools teach children ‘that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud.’” But this view is not exclusively Republican, Paul explains, or even conservative: “presidential candidate Al Gore supported teaching both creationism and evolution, his running mate Joe Lieberman asserted that belief in a creator is instrumental to ‘secure the moral future of our nation, and raise the quality of life for all our people,’ and presidential candidate John Kerry emphasized his religious values in the latter part of his campaign.” Surveys show that many Americans agree “their church-going nation is an exceptional, God blessed, ‘shining city on the hill’ that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly skeptical world. ”This assumption flies in the face of the actual statistical evidence that Paul examined.

The study focuses on the prosperous democracies, because “levels of religious and nonreligious belief and practice, and indicators of societal health and dysfunction, have been most extensively and reliably surveyed” in them. Also, “The cultural and economic similarity of the developed democracies minimizes the variability of factors outside those being examined.” With a database of 800 million people, this study is far more reliable than results based on smaller sample sizes used in other such studies. The data are also current and extensive, collected in the middle and latter half of the 1990s and early 2000s from the International Social Survey Programme, the UN Development Programme, the World Health Organization, Gallup, and other well-documented sources.

For this study’s purpose, “dysfunctionality” is defined by such indicators of poor societal health as homicide, suicide, low life expectancy, STD infection, abortion, early pregnancy, and high childhood mortality (under five-years old). Religiosity is measured by biblical literalism, frequency of prayer and service attendance, as well as absolute belief in a creator in terms of ardency, conservatism, and activities.

Paul’s results are presented in nine charts. The first compares acceptance of evolution with various indicators of religiosity. From this Paul concludes that, “The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator and acceptance of evolution, plus the lack of a significant religious revival in any developed democracy where evolution is popular, cast doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science. Such an amalgamation may not be practical.” He adds: “When deciding between supernatural and natural causes is a matter of opinion large numbers are likely to opt for the latter,” and that, “Conversely, evolution will probably not enjoy strong majority support in the U.S. until religiosity declines markedly.”

All of the subsequent results that compare religiosity against dysfunctionality show a basic correlation between the two, though anomalies exist. Paul’s second figure (Figures 1 and 2 here) shows a positive correlation between religiosity and homicide rates.
Figure 1 and 2

The United States is a strong exception, experiencing far higher rates of homicide than even (strongly theistic) Portugal, while Portugal itself is beset by much more homicide than the secular developed democracies. Hardly a “shining city on a hill” to the rest of the world, Paul writes that, “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.” This deviates immensely from what most Americans consider to be common wisdom: that religion is beneficial. “But in the other developed democracies religiosity continues to decline precipitously and avowed atheists often win high office, even as clergies warn about adverse societal consequences if a revival of creator belief does not occur.”
Figure 3
Figure 4

Despite the best efforts of “pro-life” Americans, abortion rates are much higher in our Christian nation, and lowest in relatively secular ones such as Japan, France, and the Scandinavian countries (Figures 3 and 4). 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 5 and 6). This would seem to indicate that there is a positive correlation between religiosity and dysfunctionality, but what does that mean?
Figure 5 and 6

The question is one of causation, and there is no clear answer. Whether religion leads directly to dysfunctionality, or religions merely flourish in dysfunctional societies, neither conclusion from this study flatters religion. The first tells us that religion is a hindrance to the development of moral character, and the second that religion hinders progress by distracting us from our troubles (with imaginary solutions to real problems). This study is complicated enough that I do not think that we can draw definitive negative conclusions about religion. But we can at least conclude, contrary to popular belief in this country, that it is not a given that religious societies are better, healthier, or more moral. What we can be clear about from this study is that highly religious societies can be dysfunctional, whereas by comparison secular societies in which evolution is largely accepted display real social cohesion and societal well-being. As is always the case in science, more data and additional research will help clarify our conclusions.


SRC: www.skeptic.com...

Wait! But I thought atheists were horrible people without morals who would just kill people because they don't believe in God and his commandments?!?

What's going on here?

[snarky comment edited out by Moderator]
[edit on 6/4/2008 by bigbert81]

[edit on 4-6-2008 by Byrd]




posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 04:34 PM
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reply to post by bigbert81
 


I don't know what your problem with religion is but let me tell you something. If there was no religion Atheists think it would be a perfect Utopia well it won't. They would find other reasons to invade countries, and other reasons to divide one another.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 04:39 PM
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reply to post by bigbert81
 


Great article and very interesting to see in writing something that we already know.

When comparisons are made between other developing countries and the US it seems that we do not perform very well at all.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 04:40 PM
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Even Humanism "religion"?

Actually in my opinion religion is created by society because later needs it. Religions exist in most technologically advanced societies and in the least advanced ones. It is just a mechanism that is created for a lot of reasons. In society without religion a new religion has to be born.
As for morality or immorality - it does not matter if person is religious,atheist or has his own beliefs. There are decent people and not so decent people everywhere and in every social group.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 06:48 PM
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reply to post by ZeroKnowledge
 


It of course depends on your definition of religion.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 07:49 PM
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I'm not going to go into this too deeply, but there are some problems with the methodology of this study and not only that but the results were admittedly inconclusive.

America is a diverse, open society and we pay a certain price for the freedom we desire. Our Constitution protects the criminal as well as the victim. We believe however that the benefits of freedom outweigh the costs.

Also, while Americans might be more religious than many other societies, we remain a distinctly secular society and secular influences often carry more weight in the law than religious influences.

Just because there is a lot of crime in the US doesn't mean that those crimes are committed overwhelming by the religious and there is certainly no causal influence provided that I'm aware of. This is a matter of correlation.

A religion that preaches hate will undoubtedly yield violence, but humans are prone to violence by nature.

A religion that preaches the values of love, peace, and forgiveness is going against human nature and is never successful in completely stemming human frailty.

I think what the study's author is missing is the personal nature of religion. The effect of religion is in the heart of the individual.

One thing is true about America. We are constantly bombarded by cheap, shallow values of consumerism. Eventually, though, people learn how unfulfilling and damaging those values are and seek deeper, more profound values that are found in Christianity and other religions.

Not everyone proceeds at the same pace of development and very many never advance beyond rote ritual to genuine spiritual growth.

I think the biggest flaw in this study is that the conclusions are dependent on flawed definitions and collective data to describe what is an intensely personal experience.

[edit on 2008/6/4 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 11:04 PM
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Perhaps take a look to societies with no religion to see how this dream of bigberts will turn out.

(4min)



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 11:06 PM
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reply to post by Bigwhammy
 


Whammy, you are ridiculous with your 'No religion equals no morals and COMMUNISM', even DESPITE a study I've just posted.

Just goes to show how closed off your mind truly is.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 11:24 PM
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reply to post by bigbert81
 


Oh please! Like "Skeptic" magazine is an unbiased source of information. Here's a study for you...


The Health Benefits of Faith:



In a study comparing the associations between faith and health, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center physician has shown the improvements in life expectancy of those who attend religious services on a weekly basis to be comparable to those who participate in regular physical exercise! Dr. Daniel Hall compared the impact of regular exercise, statin therapy and religious attendance, and showed that each accounts for an additional two-to-five years of life. "This is not to say that religious attendance should replace primary prevention such as exercise, or a proven drug therapy, such as statin therapy, but it does suggest that regular religious attendance is associated with a substantially longer life expectancy, and this warrants further research," cautions Dr. Hall.
www.dailygood.org...

I'll go with the cold hard evidence of history.

Humanism always fails to deliver said goal... only tragedy. You can't argue the historical record - you lose. Your atheist vision of the future is misguided and it truly a nightmare. You are on the wrong side. Evil loses in the end bert. Morality is never relative. Not even for you bert.



posted on Jun, 4 2008 @ 11:34 PM
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reply to post by Bigwhammy
 


Yeah, keep on laughing there, big guy. In your haste though, you neglected to notice that Skeptic Magazine was quoting a 3rd party study published in the Journal of Religion and Society. Not so funny now, is it? Well, maybe for me it is.




Humanism always fails to deliver said goal... only tragedy.


Hmmm...Humanism always fails huh? I hope you can back that up, otherwise you're just spewing crap. Do you even know what Humanism is for you to say that?



Morality is never relative.


Guess what?!...Wrong again. Morals are developed by society. They're not just somehow discovered one day, they are created and learned throughout time with many different factors.



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 12:26 AM
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reply to post by bigbert81
 




eah, keep on laughing there, big guy. In your haste though, you neglected to notice that Skeptic Magazine was quoting a 3rd party study published in the Journal of Religion and Society. Not so funny now, is it? Well, maybe for me it is.


No now it's hilarious!


Uhh read much? You printed an article from skeptic magazin which is only about a study in the Journal of Religion in Society.




Hmmm...Humanism always fails huh? I hope you can back that up, otherwise you're just spewing crap. Do you even know what Humanism is for you to say that?


Everyone but you seems to already know that humanism as political body = communism. The track records speak for themselves bigbert.



Guess what?!...Wrong again. Morals are developed by society. They're not just somehow discovered one day, they are created and learned throughout time with many different factors.


Guess what?!...Wrong again.
I've already thoroughly trounced you on this topic here



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 12:34 AM
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reply to post by Bigwhammy
 




Uhh read much? You printed an article from skeptic magazine which is only about a study in the Journal of Religion in Society.


Hey there, big guy, that's what I was saying. Nice try though to flip it around. You made yourself look like a fool and can't deal with it. This article I posted just summed up the study. Quit doing this to yourself and just concede. Feel free to check the graphs.



Everyone but you seems to already know that humanism as political body = communism. The track records speak for themselves bigbert.


Once again, I stand by my last statement that you do not know what Humanism is.



Guess what?!...Wrong again.
I've already thoroughly trounced you on this topic here


Whammy, quit doing this to yourself. You're really tarnishing your name here. Go back and read the thread. You'll see that I didn't debate the crap you spewed because I started anticipating a debate. I could of course go back and set you straight there, as I took notes on the BS you were telling Soul Slayer there for the debate, but then I'd have 3 threads I would need to reply to you on, instead of just the standard 2.

P.S. Morals are RELATIVE. That's why there's different cultures in the world. Humanism holds that there are several different solutions, and the fact that there's various cultures only goes to back that theory up.






[edit on 6/5/2008 by bigbert81]



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 12:36 AM
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This just regular old communist propaganda like the old days. Please crack a history book and stoop l,aying so many video games young man. When I was a boy thinking like this could get you in jail for treason.



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 12:38 AM
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reply to post by Reverend SamuelTophatJack
 


What the hell does 'stoop l,aying video games' mean?



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 01:17 AM
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It is funny. I thought as an Atheist trying to prove that life would be better without religion, you sure did get into an argument fast. It is in our nature! We
are good, we are bad, we are loving, we are hating, we are afraid, we are courages. It is not religion it is the people. Religion has got itself a bad name because of people who are too pushy and etc.

Honestly I think the world is fine the way it is, and if there was no religion it would be the exact same it is. Maybe it would be annihilated because of the advanced technology and weaponry we would have able to get.



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 01:19 AM
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Whammy, quit doing this to yourself. You're really tarnishing your name here. Go back and read the thread. You'll see that I didn't debate the crap you spewed because I started anticipating a debate. I could of course go back and set you straight there, as I took notes on the BS you were telling Soul Slayer there for the debate, but then I'd have 3 threads I would need to reply to you on, instead of just the standard 2.

P.S. Morals are RELATIVE. That's why there's different cultures in the world. Humanism holds that there are several different solutions, and the fact that there's various cultures only goes to back that theory up.


No you got trounced bert. Morals are not relative. I still want to debate you in a debate forum. I don't know why the mods are dragging their heals unless you never responded?

Yeah that was great how soulslayer was on your side and even made a long post on relativism and then did a 180 - I got him to admit he was an moral absolutist. And truth is you are too bert. Your faith in atheism is blinding you to evidence and reason.

Let a lawyer try to explain it to you maybe...



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 01:20 AM
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reply to post by Equinox99
 


Actually, this thing with me and Whammy has been going for a little while. Plus, it's really annoying having people call me a communist; however, if you think the world is just fine the way it is, I would have to strongly disagree.

And I'm not an Atheist. I look at Deism. Of course, I'm still 50/50.



posted on Jun, 5 2008 @ 01:25 AM
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reply to post by Bigwhammy
 


I did respond twice, and now I've just given up as I am going to be much busier here starting tomorrow, hence the thread.

And you might have gotten SoulSlayer to say 'Good point', but you didn't convince me at all. Like I said, I took notes on what you said and saw the faults in it SS was unable to see.

Morals are relative. That is fact. This lawyer is just appealing to yours and mine which is why he sounds like he makes a good point, but everyone in the world thinks the world would be better if they all shared the same views. And you are showing that HUGELY.

And 'trounced', really? Keep on digging there Whammy, because the only victory you're going to get in this area are the delusions like you've just created. Perhaps you should go back and read the thread.

[edit on 6/5/2008 by bigbert81]



posted on Jun, 6 2008 @ 05:15 PM
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reply to post by bigbert81
 


I believe it, if you look around the world you can clearly see that religion devastates humanity. The crusades, the whole middle east is in war because of religion, the stuff with Isreal and palestine.

In America we have people hating other people because they dont believ in god. We have evangelists that are absolutly crazy and make all their followers just as crazy.

Religion is one of the most dangerous things in human culture.



posted on Jun, 6 2008 @ 05:17 PM
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reply to post by Reverend SamuelTophatJack
 


Where in gods name did you grow up? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.



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