Is Religion Bad For America?
Using existing data, Paul combined 25 indicators of societal and economic stability — things like crime, suicide, drug use, incarceration, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption — to score each country using what he calls the “successful societies scale.” He also scored countries on their degree of religiosity, as determined by such measures as church attendance, belief in a creator deity and acceptance of Bible literalism.
Comparing the two scores, he found, with little exception, that the least religious countries enjoyed the most prosperity. Of particular note, the U.S. holds the distinction of most religious and least prosperous among the 17 countries included in the study, ranking last in 14 of the 25 socioeconomic measures.
This points to correlation, not causation. Furthermore, the study shows, we’re not hard-wired for religion. It has more to do with environmental factors than evolutionary ones. And Paul’s study is not the only one with such an hypothesis.
Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College whose research looks at the link between religion and societal health within the developed world, agrees with that assertion. “The important thing we’re seeing here is that progressive, highly functional societies can answer their problems within a framework of secularity. That’s a big deal, and we should be blasting that message out loud,” he contends.
Zuckerman says the findings are consistent with his own data, collected for his 2008 book Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment — a portrait of secular society in Denmark and Sweden — and his forthcoming Faith No More: How and Why People Reject Religion.Click here for reuse options!
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