Godlessness and Goodness

Britain’s Times Online reports on a study published today that has found secularism tracks with societal functionality and refutes the contention of many advocates of religion that a belief in a higher power and/or religious practice is integral to maintaining a safe and healthy society. In fact, the opposite appears to be true:

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 study focused solely on first world nations. Abstract:

Large-scale surveys show dramatic declines in religiosity in favor of secularization in the developed democracies. Popular acceptance of evolutionary science correlates negatively with levels of religiosity, and the United States is the only prosperous nation where the majority absolutely believes in a creator and evolutionary science is unpopular. Abundant data is available on rates of societal dysfunction and health in the first world. Cross-national comparisons of highly differing rates of religiosity and societal conditions form a mass epidemiological experiment that can be used to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator are necessary for high levels of social health. Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and anti-evolution America performs poorly.
I’ve only had time to skim the full article (here), so I can’t vouch for it, although it appears to be confirming data from similar studies comparing US social issues with other western democracies, independent of the additional layer of religious correlations. Anyway, I pass it on for your consideration without much comment, because I thought it was interesting.

On a side note: From a philosophical perspective, I think the type and tenor of religion that tends to be favored in the US has a lot to do with both why it lingers and why it correlates with higher rates of murder, suicide, promiscuity, and abortion. And snake bites, if you get my drift.

It’s no coincidence religious liberals in America tend not to be of third-generation protestant splinter denominations.

UPDATE: Lively discussion about this going on over at Pharyngula. Thanks to Coturnix for the pointer.

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