Religiosity appears to correlate negatively with social health

This fairly unprepossessing review paper is still worth a read because it challenges some of the founding assumptions of the political debate in the United States and, in what it says, has implications for those in Western Europe who may be attracted to the ideas exported by the religious right of America.

The writer finds that:

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 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.

Put simply, this initial study seems to kill, with little hope of revival, the idea that disbelief in God correlates with lawlessness, social injustice, and poor health in industrialized nations. The data strongly suggests that there is, if anything, a negative correlation, which may be worthy of study especially in the United States where a significant concern is America’s inability to turn its considerable economic superiority and vast geographical advantages (compared to the crowding in Europe and Japan) into better quality of life.

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