Finally, people are researching the claim that I’ve observed anecdotally for years: all this “god” stuff hurts more than it helps. An article in The Times reports on a new study recently published examining the assertion that religion is necessary for a healthy society.
The study comes from a US academic journal called the Journal of Religion and Society and was authored by Gregory Paul. From the article, it seems that he took data from several respected research bodies and used them to create correlational data between several social factors and religion. Without the study, I can’t verify for myself how strong of a correlation he would have been able to draw, but before anyone gets too excited, I want to point out that there’s too many variables to be able to prove a causational model in this area.
From the article:
According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.
The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.
It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.
Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its â€œspiritual capitalâ€. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.
I highly recommend reading the entire article. I would love to get my hands on the paper itself, as I’m very interested in this learning more study. (Darn you, UBC library!) Heck, I’m very interested in the journal itself, seeing as the title of it leads me to believe that it focuses on the examination of how religion and society interact. I hope that Paul’s research here leads to a more in-depth examination between the impacts of various belief systems on societies and the people who live in them.
Update: Found the study, it’s available for public viewing on the Journal’s website: Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look.
Sidenote: I am so pissed at WordPress right now. I was having some trouble updating this, and it had gone through, so I closed the unsaved file that I was keeping my update in and logged out. Guess what? The entire post went from published to unpublished status and lost the update I had written! ARGH.