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Theism and social disorder
10-14-2009, 12:55 PM
Post: #1
Theism and social disorder
I've just come across an article written for the Journal of Religion and Society, a peer reviewed journal for religious studies. It was written in 2005. The article can be found here for reference.

Basically, they did a study comparing 3 groups of factors in first-world democracies (and Portugal, which is a second-world democracy with highly theistic leanings to serve as a comparison).

1. The religious nature countries (including what percentage of people absolutely believe in god, what percentage attend religious services, what percentage pray regularly, and what percentage are atheist/agnostic).

2. Belief in evolution

3. Instances of immoral and violent behavior (including the homocide rate, the rate of youth suicides, the rate of infant death, life expectancy, the rate of various STDs, abortions in countries where abortion is legal, and teen pregnancies).

Most of the article goes into the underlying assumptions (namely long-standing belief that religion promotes morality,) and the methods used to gather the data and to ensure the data is accurate.

The conclusions get really interesting. It is no surprise that the US is more religious than any other modern democracy (including the comparison test subject of Portugal. In fact the US is the only significantly theistic first-world democracy). It is no surprise that the higher belief in evolution is, the lower belief in god is (in every case.) What is surprising is how the morality breaks down.

The data is rather conclusive. While there is some variance within nations close together on the chart, there is a direct correlation between higher rates of religious belief, and higher rates of violent and immoral behavior. Japan, the most atheistic nation, consistently scores toward the bottom as far as violent and immoral behavior goes. The US on the other hand, the only significantly theistic first world democracy, scores far and above higher on nearly every instance.

While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the abundance of evidence in this study makes it clear that religion is, in fact, detrimental to society. I'm looking about now to see if any further studies corroborate this, but this is an issue that goes beyond whether or not religion is true. It has to do with whether or not religion is healthy.

It would seem that it is not.

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10-14-2009, 09:55 PM
Post: #2
RE: Theism and social disorder
I saw this report debated endlessly on another site. The primary protagonist against it was a Catholic who seemed to be even more obsessive than myself, especially about numbers. (One of the common side effects of Catholic school. Big Grin ) This guy produced all kinds of tables and links attacking the report. I have no idea how to locate all that info now. This was a site where old posts got cleansed. But I did follow all the links and verify the data at the time, a lot of it being in the FBI and Interpol websites. (Yes I am that obsessive.)

Here are some of the arguments given against the report, followed by some things I noticed myself.

The report shows only homicides, not overall crime rates, and claims that this is representative of all crime. But (according to the data that was shown on the other site) including all felony type crimes changes the picture radically, making non-religious nations of Europe substantially worse than the US in overall crimes. Also crime rates were dropping in US but climbing in Europe.

The distribution of homicides and general crime rates in US was quite interesting. Crime, especially homicides, is very high in the Bible Belt but extraordinarily low in fundamentalist Mid-West, in fact being lower there than in any European nation. However crime rate including homicide is very dependent on economic factors. The US in general has a bigger gap between rich and poor than most democracies. There was also a strong relationship between crime and urban living, while religiosity was lower in cities than in rural areas.

Suicide rate in the report was restricted to a particular age range. Even then the US is in the middle of the spread. Expanding the age range made Europe much worse than US.

Infant mortality rate is very high in the US. Again there is a strong correlation with economic status. Life expectancy ditto, although the infamous American diet and sedentary lifestyle surely play a role here.

So much for the numbers. Again, I do not have those numbers but I did check them out at the time and they seemed to be valid.

Here are things I noticed myself.

The US is a much more heterogeneous society than any of the others mentioned. It also has a large number of historical and social conditions not present elsewhere. The number of intervening variables that could affect the outcome of such a study could fill a book. And if you look in the sociology section of your nearest university library you will find many such books. Yet this study considers the US to be a monolithic block of religiosity of a single flavor.

Four of the eight charts are devoted to what is best characterized as the consequences of not using condoms. That is, not using a bag is apparently four times as important as all forms of crime. The four categories were (for teenagers):

Gonorrhea rates
Syphilis rates
Abortions
Births and pregnancies

Separate charts for Gonorrhea and Syphilis?

The US fares poorly in all these areas. But it is interesting that heavily Catholic Ireland, where finding a condom is not easy for a teenager but not impossible either, barely makes it onto any of these charts.

And check out these points in the discussion.

Quote:[12]Regression analyses were not executed because of the high variability of degree of correlation, because potential causal factors for rates of societal function are complex, and because it is not the purpose of this initial study to definitively demonstrate a causal link between religion and social conditions. Nor were multivariate analyses used because they risk manipulating the data to produce errant or desired results, and because the fairly consistent characteristics of the sample automatically minimizes the need to correct for external multiple factors (see further discussion below). Therefore correlations of raw data are used for this initial examination.

[15]…The especially low rates [of homicide] in the more Catholic European states are statistical noise due to yearly fluctuations incidental to this sample…

Translation: The numbers cannot be trusted to prove anything. And BTW the claim made in [15] could not be determined without the methodologies that [12] admits were not used.

Is there a link between certain kinds of religiosity and societal dysfunction? It may very well be. Is this report believable as an indicator of such a condition? It does not seem so. The choice of data employed to emphasize the ‘evilness’ of the US and the lack of analytical rigor is rather suspicious. As someone who makes a living dealing with numbers as indicators of customer satisfaction and budget effectiveness, this report smells to me like a put up job and a disservice to honest inquiry.
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10-14-2009, 10:45 PM
Post: #3
RE: Theism and social disorder
That's why I posted it here, because I wanted these sorts of views. So it does not show that religion necessarily leads to higher crime and STD rates. However, it does seem pretty clear that at the very least a high level of religion does not lower these situations.

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10-14-2009, 10:55 PM
Post: #4
RE: Theism and social disorder
(10-14-2009 12:55 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  I've just come across an article written for the Journal of Religion and Society, a peer reviewed journal for religious studies. It was written in 2005. The article can be found here for reference.

Basically, they did a study comparing 3 groups of factors in first-world democracies (and Portugal, which is a second-world democracy with highly theistic leanings to serve as a comparison).

1. The religious nature countries (including what percentage of people absolutely believe in god, what percentage attend religious services, what percentage pray regularly, and what percentage are atheist/agnostic).

2. Belief in evolution

3. Instances of immoral and violent behavior (including the homocide rate, the rate of youth suicides, the rate of infant death, life expectancy, the rate of various STDs, abortions in countries where abortion is legal, and teen pregnancies).

Most of the article goes into the underlying assumptions (namely long-standing belief that religion promotes morality,) and the methods used to gather the data and to ensure the data is accurate.

The conclusions get really interesting. It is no surprise that the US is more religious than any other modern democracy (including the comparison test subject of Portugal. In fact the US is the only significantly theistic first-world democracy). It is no surprise that the higher belief in evolution is, the lower belief in god is (in every case.) What is surprising is how the morality breaks down.

The data is rather conclusive. While there is some variance within nations close together on the chart, there is a direct correlation between higher rates of religious belief, and higher rates of violent and immoral behavior. Japan, the most atheistic nation, consistently scores toward the bottom as far as violent and immoral behavior goes. The US on the other hand, the only significantly theistic first world democracy, scores far and above higher on nearly every instance.

While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the abundance of evidence in this study makes it clear that religion is, in fact, detrimental to society. I'm looking about now to see if any further studies corroborate this, but this is an issue that goes beyond whether or not religion is true. It has to do with whether or not religion is healthy.

It would seem that it is not.

It's simply that Religions need to be set up like Places to Come Debate and Worship rather than a Business where you pay for a good show then leave.

Organized Religions are mostly about the Money whereas they should be about helping it's Followers. I've found only one Church that seems to be more about helping people than it is about Profit.

Jesus even got Angry at the Pharisees of his time for acting more like Capitalist Salesmen than Teachers of Judaism. That was the real reason he died because when he entered the Temple he couldn't contain himself any more. It disgusted him that the Teachers where trying to make money off God.

Here is a link to that part of the bible:
Matthew 23

"Hidden underneath the stoned cold surface of every Pious Person lays buried a Kinky Pervert, Stop bringing shovels, Where not digging!"-Azrael
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10-17-2009, 09:32 AM
Post: #5
RE: Theism and social disorder
(10-14-2009 10:45 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  That's why I posted it here, because I wanted these sorts of views. So it does not show that religion necessarily leads to higher crime and STD rates. However, it does seem pretty clear that at the very least a high level of religion does not lower these situations.

Speaking as a mathematics head Big Grin we do not know anything. True, the report does not show that but neither does it indicate otherwise. Were a realistic analysis done including all intervening vatiables (maybe impossible) it might show that the non-religious variables in the US would have led to worse societal conditions had religion not helped. Or it might show the opposite.

This report is much touted by some members of the 'religion is wrong no matter what' crowd (not much presence on this site). But IMO the only report of this type I ever saw that was even worse was the one about how religion reduces IQ. That was an outrageously wrong methodology.

But apparently the 'religion is right no matter what' crowd do not have sufficient materials or skills to do anything mathematical. Wink
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10-17-2009, 10:53 AM
Post: #6
RE: Theism and social disorder
Thanks. Not being a mathematics head (I thought about it for a while, but while Trig was easy enough it was nowhere near as enjoyable as algebra, and I didn't want to enter a field I didn't really enjoy anymore,) it's hard for me to debunk things like this without falling back on cliches like "correlation does not imply causation".

Do you know any studies that show the opposite? That show that religion promotes lower violent crimes, abortions, rates of STDs, etc.? Or is all this information too tainted by the variations of the countries in which they are made?

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10-18-2009, 05:39 AM
Post: #7
RE: Theism and social disorder
(10-17-2009 10:53 AM)GTseng3 Wrote:  Do you know any studies that show the opposite? That show that religion promotes lower violent crimes, abortions, rates of STDs, etc.? Or is all this information too tainted by the variations of the countries in which they are made?

I recall seeing one study years ago (where?) that appeared to show that the higher the rate of active participation in a single religion within a community, the lower the crime rate. I do not recall that it dealt with any other societal factors. I wonder what the results might be if one measured crime rates versus the rate of active participation in the Elks or other fraternal organization. That is, was it religion or community spirit that mattered? When I was a kid, before housing projects and much TV or air conditioning, parents often sat on their stoops in the evenings and watched the kids. There was a whole lot less of the various societal ills in those days. Connection?
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10-18-2009, 10:44 AM
Post: #8
RE: Theism and social disorder
I would suggest it was more community than religion. If it was religion itself we would expect those results across all religions, not just in communities where a higher rate of active participation was with a single religion.

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10-18-2009, 01:07 PM
Post: #9
RE: Theism and social disorder
(10-18-2009 10:44 AM)GTseng3 Wrote:  I would suggest it was more community than religion. If it was religion itself we would expect those results across all religions, not just in communities where a higher rate of active participation was with a single religion.

What I meant was whether a widespread sense of community, as in my Elks example, is in itself sufficient or whether 'other worldly' authority is necessary.
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07-20-2010, 06:12 AM
Post: #10
RE: Theism and social disorder
I am talking about maths head Big Grin know nothing. Although the report indicates, but does not indicate otherwise. It was a realistic analysis is made vatiables all parties involved (perhaps impossible) could indicate that the variables non-religious in the United States would lead to worsening social conditions, religion has not helped. Or you can prove otherwise.

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