Thursday, June 7, 2007

Does religion promote better societies?

Many christians subscribe to the idea that religion promotes better, healthier and safer societies. Conversely, they often believe that a lack of religion leads to weaker, unsafer societies. Are they justified in thinking this? I put some cerebral thought into this question a few years back and came to a different conclusion.

It's very easy to look in the middle-eastern countries and see cultures deeply rooted in religion with deep social problems. Is there a direct correlation to the high numbers of individuals with fundamentalist beliefs within those societies and the problems seen? They definitely have problems, but is it religion? On the surface, one may conclude that this must be because of other issues or because of the particulars of the religions they follow. Is it religion in general or just their religion? Is it something else?

In order for something to be a theory, it must be falsifiable and it must predict. With the theory that levels of religiosity directly correlates to social problems within countries (a prediction) , one should be able to find similarly high social problems anywhere there are high levels of religiosity, regardless of the religion (a test). My theory predicts that even a developed, prosperous and democratic country should still exhibit high levels of social issues if there is a high level of religiosity in the general population. Where to look then? The obvious place, the United States. The US fits the criteria very well for an objective test of the theory. It doesn't have many of the other problems that could be effecting many of the middle-eastern countries; problems such as recent wars (or ongoing) on their soil, aggressive neighboring countries, political systems and instability, weaker personal liberties, lower standards of living, lower levels of education, etc.

So how does the US rank in terms of social problems when compared to other similar democratic, wealthy countries that are less religious? We all hear of the high murder rates, rapes, teenage pregnancy, etc. in the US, but Americans tend to think this is normal and many christians tend to blame it on a lack of religiosity in the general population - never considering that the US is actually one of the most religious countries on the planet. When contrasting the levels of religiosity in the US to other countries such as France, UK, Canada and many others, the numbers don't make sense by the claims of the fundamentalists. By the theories of the christian fundamentalist in the US, the US should rank higher for social progress but it consistently ranks lower then all similar countries with less religious populations.

My conclusion was that the US does exhibit many of the social issues that accompany high levels of religiosity, but this was not a full out study on the problem, just my own investigation and comparison of some general statistics from several countries.

Today, I found this:

Surprised? I wasn't.