Re: In awe of our advancements, Jan. 31 letters.
We should be very careful about drawing conclusions from correlations between religiosity and societal breakdown, the letter today demonstrates a common misconception that a society is, and would be, better off with religion.
The conclusions of many recent sociological researches conducted by people such as Gregory Scott Paul indicate that popular religious belief is caused by dysfunctional societal conditions and does not benefit societies.
Many religious believers assume that religion, usually their own brand of religion, benefits society and that without religion people behave badly, society breaks down and there can be no morality without it.
Atheists, secular humanists, naturalists disagree. Evolutionary psychology reveals the common morality of our species and the values of kindness, fairness and reciprocity are universal. Research and evidence shows strong positive correlations between nations’ religious beliefs and levels of murder, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and other dysfunctional indicators. Research and evidence shows that being religious does not necessarily make for a better society.
For example, Paul’s research measures popular religiosity for developed nations and then compares it against the “Successful Societies Scale” which includes homicide rates, prison incarceration levels, sexually transmitted diseases, corruption, infant mortality, teenage births, abortions, income inequality and many other measures of a societies health.
The result: First World nations with the highest belief in God and the greatest religious observance are also the ones with the greatest signs of societal dysfunction.
The results are significant.
The United Sates comes out worse than any other First World nation in the developed world, and it is the most religious.
Correlation is not cause and researchers are careful to analyze all possibilities that might explain the relationship. After examining all factors such as immigration, ethnic diversity, violence in media, historical impacts and other significant modifiers, researchers are led to the conclusion that secular democracies regularly and significantly outperform theistic ones and the moral-creator socioeconomic hypothesis is rejected in favour of the secular-democratic socioeconomic hypothesis.
Everyone may not agree with the conclusion that Paul arrived at “that it is probably not possible for a socially healthy nation to be highly religious,” but the evidence shows that healthiest nations are also the least religious and are indeed better off without religion.
Scott Keddy, White Rock