Questionable Motives

July 22, 2011

Does economic inequality foster religious faith?

It appears so. There is a growing body of evidence (here and here and here) that the degree of religosity is directly and positively correlated to adverse social conditions. What this means is that the influence of religion can best be reduced by eliminating those adverse social conditions that promotes it.

So how do we know if economic inequality is an important and significant factor?

In a new paper Economic Inequality, Relative Power, and Religiosity, the authors have collected data from 76 countries using 12 different measures for strength of faith where we see this very strong correlation:

Across the bottom is the income inequality per country compared to the left column as a frequency of occurrence of whatever the stated question asks. As we can see, the lower the inequality, the lower the frequency, the higher the inequality, the higher the frequency. This is statistically significant and helps to explain that even in developed countries, the impetus for religiosity is based on social conditions that promote economic inequality and not on the truth value of the religious claims themselves.

So is religiosity growing or declining in the United States?

Interesting, eh? This is good evidence that the assumption made by accommodationists – that we need to be less, and not more, critical of religious interference in order to promote science – seems to be misguided. Equitable economic factors seems to be primary.

For a more in-depth look at this study and some of the important questions it raises, check out Jerry Coyne’s assessment and many excellent comments at Why Evolution is True.

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12 Comments »

  1. While it is true that people in trouble with things beyond their control will often turn to a sort of God item in their lives, it is also true that such transformation won’t last beyond the trouble. When good times come back, people often drop their perceived need for a help beyond this world. Thus the term, “Jail House Religion”.

    But it is worth mentioning that in Christianity it is not the man who chooses God. It is God who chooses that man. Thus, in Christianity, the transformation is complete and is not subject to either poverty nor riches. You will hear differently from many who promote something short of the Gospel. But the Bible doesn’t support the pride of man’s accomplishments. It promotes the God who reaches down to claim a people for Himself.

    By His Grace.

    Comment by hiwaychristian — July 22, 2011 @ 11:30 am | Reply

    • Do you not find it somewhat troubling that religious belief is predicated more on social adversity than the truth value of its central tenets?

      In other words, to bring more people to god, heap on the disparity: help the rich get richer and poor even poorer! The greater the economic inequality, the more ‘truthiness’ a religious gains! That’s its baseline and not the truth of its tenets. Such religious belief is not any kind of deeper knowledge about the universe and our place in it whatsoever. It’s more of an intellectual rash brought on by economic disparity that people attempt to theologically scratch. Thankfully, there is medicine for that.

      Comment by tildeb — July 22, 2011 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  2. I earnestly believe that the base motivation of humanity is selfishness. I would attribute that selfishness to a defensive posture. We’re locked in a vulnerable skin, attacks from other defensive indivduals promotes fear, and then there’s that nagging little thing called death.

    Once the threat is past, people often move back into a greed mode. So, I don’t find it odd that people relate more readily to religion when times get tough. The miracle is that some are drawn into a personal constant regarding religion (apart from a social norm such as islam or regional/socially acceptable lifestyle religions. These are more on the order of social cliques.).

    Comment by hiwaychristian — July 23, 2011 @ 3:42 am | Reply

    • You keep avoiding the obvious, hiwaychristian: prevalence of religious faith comes not from the truth of its claims but from the scope of economic inequalities. Remember, inequalities include people at both ends of the wealth spectrum embracing religious beliefs about the nature of the universe, which flies in the face of your jail house conversions and selfish vulnerability explanation. One would think a person might be reasonably concerned that the truth claims of religious beliefs matter to determine their value independent of the social context in which we find them. I have long criticized believers for not caring about what is true in fact but only concerned about believing in their unreasonable religious truth claims. It seems my criticism is fully justified in the aggregate.

      Comment by tildeb — July 23, 2011 @ 8:30 am | Reply

  3. In your “high minded” approach to all religions, you stand opposed to them all. Except that they seem to have some value in the lives of many “simple minded” folk. And I have learned there is a place where speaking to such approaches from my point of view becomes useless. I will bow out of this conversation now. It will do neither of us any good to do battle over the issue.

    I stand as one who has found what the world is looking for in their soul. You aren’t even looking. I don’t mean that as a slam. It is simply an obversation. You think you’ve found all the world has to offer in the search for God. And I think I’ve found the source of every answer man has regarding his existance and his future.

    I wish you well. But I urge you to give serious consideration to Jesus. Beyond that last sentence, I can do no more.

    By His Grace.

    Comment by hiwaychristian — July 24, 2011 @ 7:56 am | Reply

    • I don’t assume I can de-convert anyone; you’ll have to do that yourself. And I certainly don’t think only ‘simple-minded folk’ are religious. I recognize just how insidious faith-based beliefs can be and men and women far more clever than either of us have been taken in. All I can do is show why you cannot know what you think you know through your religious belief and point out that it is a fair warning that you care far less about what is true than you do about what you believe is true, and you prove this to yourself and others pretending that this special enlightenment (“I stand as one who has found what the world is looking for in their soul) comes from your pursuit to know more about the true nature of Jesus. The truth is, hiwayman, you have no evidence equivalent to the scope of your belief and much evidence that stands opposed. Yet you reject all that and substitute your belief and find that of value. But if you are not serving what is true, you are serving something else, something less, something untrustworthy; believing it is true without adequate cause, without better reasons that those contrary to the belief. That practice – regardless of the specific belief itself – makes you a willing hypocrite, intellectually dishonest, and someone who subverts what is true to serve what you believe is true. Someday you will get angry enough at this willingness to believe to take back your mind and use reality as your arbiter for what is actually true and trustworthy. Because you know what? It’s okay not to be special, okay to not understand, okay to admit not to know something. Substituting belief to overcome these natural shortcomings is not okay because you end up simply fooling yourself.

      Comment by tildeb — July 24, 2011 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  4. Your response is your response. And wasn’t I right to recognize that we were through?

    I do have proof. But even if I could show it to you, you would disclaim its validity. This proof will be enough to propel me into a joy you will never know as long as you remain where you stand.

    Again, I have learned the signs in conversation, where blind men must stop their search. I refer to you as blind? Yes I do. And it’s not an acqusation. It’s a fact about which the blind will argue till they have no more breath. You search with the eyes of man. But you do not own the eyes of God’s people. I don’t cut you off from God. You are doing that yourself. But then, you won’t acknowledge the validity of any of my statements. So be it. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

    By His Grace.

    Comment by hiwaychristian — July 24, 2011 @ 9:40 am | Reply

    • Proof is not in the beliefs you hold, hiwayman. Proof – in the sense of what informs what we can know is true – can only reside in reality. The dead, for example, do not re-animate. You have no good evidence that they do. Ever. Yet you hold a special exemption… only because you have decided to believe this exemption is true – for your divine agency. The joy you feel from this belief is not from any exterior source or agency but from your own brain. It – and not some supernatural divine zombie – causes your feelings specialness and you manipulate those feelings by the insistence that your beliefs are true because you believe them to be true. Once you understand the causal order of what’s actually going on in your brain to cause your feelings, only then can you begin to appreciate why your attributions based on your beliefs rather than reality are untrustworthy.

      You claim I’m ‘blind’ because I do not share the certainty you have in your own beliefs. I call that ‘prudent’ because there is no way for me to tell the difference between your beliefs and any other delusion because you don;t allow reality to play its necessary role that you allow it to play in all other areas of your life. You hold your religious beliefs to be exempt from reality and I think that makes you gullible believing as you do that it equates with some special insight into god. It’s likely a special insight into a delusion. Even believing that you have special insight unavailable to me because of some prior refusal to believe like you do makes me think you are foolish when such an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and benevolent critter could so easily do a slightly better job making its divine presence known in reality without me creating what amounts to accepting a delusion as true without extraordinary corroborating evidence in reality. You obviously don’t share that ‘high standard’ for your divine agency, which makes me think your special insight just that much more unlikely… beholden as it is almost in its entirety to your belief alone. Without your belief and your testimonial that it is true because you believe is true, there is no evidence your beliefs reflect what’s true in reality. That lack of evidence that should be there is what informs my sincere and honest doubt and not my hostility towards those who think their trust in their own beliefs should hold effect over me or anyone else in the public domain.

      Comment by tildeb — July 24, 2011 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

  5. “And wasn’t I right to recognize that we were through?”

    No – you weren’t; only fools and the betrayed search for something to which they are already attached.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — July 24, 2011 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  6. But it is worth mentioning that in the Norse Religion it is not the man who chooses Thor. It is Thor who chooses that man. Thus, in the Norse Religion, the transformation is complete and is not subject to either poverty nor riches. You will hear differently from many who promote something short of the Giant Stories. But the Giant Stories don’t support the pride of man’s accomplishments. It promotes the Gods who reaches down to claim a people for themselves. In your “high minded” approach to all religions, you stand opposed to them all. Except that they seem to have some value in the lives of many “simple minded” folk. And I have learned there is a place where speaking to such approaches from my point of view becomes useless. I will bow out of this conversation now. It will do neither of us any good to do battle over the issue. I stand as one who has found what the world is looking for in their soul. You aren’t even looking. I don’t mean that as a slam. It is simply an obversation. You think you’ve found all the world has to offer in the search for Thor. And I think I’ve found the source of every answer man has regarding his existance and his future.
    I wish you well. But I urge you to give serious consideration to Thor and His Righteous Hammer. Beyond that last sentence, I can do no more.
    Your response is your response. And wasn’t I right to recognize that we were through?
    I do have proof. But even if I could show it to you, you would disclaim its validity. This proof will be enough to propel me into a joy you will never know as long as you remain where you stand.
    Again, I have learned the signs in conversation, where blind men must stop their search. I refer to you as blind? Yes I do. And it’s not an acqusation. It’s a fact about which the blind will argue till they have no more breath. You search with the eyes of man. But you do not own the eyes of Thor’s people. I don’t cut you off from Thor. You are doing that yourself. But then, you won’t acknowledge the validity of any of my statements. So be it. Even so, Thor, come. Let Odin pluck out his other eye.

    (giggle)

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — July 25, 2011 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

    • Your version will be considered absurd while the jesus one considered revelatory. What will be missed, I suspect, is the the entire dish of irony you serve us and the humour that accompanies it.

      Comment by tildeb — July 25, 2011 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  7. […] it’s working (see the evidence through the additional links in the body of the text here). GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

    Pingback by Why do atheists comment about religion? « Questionable Motives — October 24, 2011 @ 11:58 am | Reply


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