Questionable Motives

February 22, 2010

Religion vs Secularism: are religious beliefs correlated to higher levels of social dysfunction?

Filed under: belief,Psychology,Religion,Science,Secularism,Society — tildeb @ 3:38 pm

Apparently so. And this evidence stands in stark contrast to the oft repeated assertion that religious belief has a net social benefit. It does not. It correlates strongly with social dysfunction.

Abstract from Gregory Paul:

Better understanding the nature, origin and popularity of varying levels of popular religion versus secularism, and their impact upon socioeconomic conditions and vice versa, requires a cross national comparison of the competing factors in populations where opinions are freely chosen. Utilizing 25 indicators, the uniquely extensive Successful Societies Scale reveals that population diversity and immigration correlate weakly with 1st world  socioeconomic conditions, and high levels of income disparity, popular religiosity as measured by differing levels of belief and activity, and rejection of evolutionary science correlate strongly negatively with improving conditions. The historically unprecedented socioeconomic security that results from low levels of progressive government policies appear to suppress popular religiosity and creationist opinion, conservative religious ideology apparently contributes to societal dysfunction, and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs. The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors. The nonuniversality of strong religious devotion, and the ease with which large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign, refute hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state, whether they are superficial or natural in nature. Instead popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments. Popular nontheism is a similarly casual response to superior conditions.

Video report from MSNBC

When evidence of similar strength correlates smoking with cancer, anti-smoking educational campaigns are launched along with new and prohibitive laws to curtail access by the most vulnerable, namely, our children. Very reasonable, in my opinion.

When evidence of similar strength correlates the emissions of greenhouse gases with rising global temperatures, summits are called, reduction targets set, and there is a groundswell of public support to ‘green’ our industries and reduce emissions. Very reasonable, in my opinion.

Can we expect to see a similarly reasonable and widespread response against religious indoctrination of our children?

Yeah, that’s what I thought, which raises a very important question:

If not, why not?


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