You all know the arguments.
- It’s important to raise your children in a faith tradition, because otherwise they won’t know right from wrong
- People who don’t fear the wrath of God have no incentive to be good
- Increasing secularization is responsible for all the social ills in America (and depending on whom you ask, for the natural disasters too)
But as is often the case, what we know just ain’t so. Consider this study, published in the Journal of Religion and Society. The author looked at several western democratic nations and compared their rates of religiosity with their rates of social problems. For the purposes of the study, religiosity = stated belief in God, church attendance, biblical literalism, and rejection of the theory of evolution. Social problems = homicides, juvenile and adult mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, and abortion.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the most religious societies would have the lowest rates of social ills. In fact, the opposite is true.
Japan, Scandinavia, and France are the most secular nations in the west, the United States is the only prosperous first world nation to retain rates of religiosity otherwise limited to the second and third worlds.
Despite a significant decline from a recent peak in the 1980s (Rosenfeld), the U.S. is the only prosperous democracy that retains high homicide rates.
The positive correlation between protheistic factors and juvenile mortality is remarkable, especially regarding absolute belief, and even prayer (Figure 4). Life spans tend to decrease as rates of religiosity rise (Figure 5), especially as a function of absolute belief.
Although the late twentieth century STD epidemic has been curtailed in all prosperous democracies (Aral and Holmes; Panchaud et al.), 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.
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. (Figure 8). 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 (Figure 9).
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.
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.
The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.
Please note: correlation is not causation. Let me say that again (I’m feeling very Joe Biden today): Correlation Is Not Causation. The results of this study do not suggest that religiosity causes the social dysfunctions discussed. But it does disprove the popularly held notion that secularization causes such dysfunctions.
Yes, that does mean my attention-grabbing headline is bull puckey. I’m just practicing for my future soulless corporate marketing job.
Another note to please note: if anyone comments, “all those Americans who claim to be religious aren’t *real* Christians,” I swear I will reach through the screen and wap you upside the head.