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(DV) Salisbury: Religion May Be Dangerous to Our Health







Religion May Be Dangerous to Our Health
by Lee Salisbury
October 11, 2005

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The Roman Catholic Jesuit Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, in its Journal of Religion and Society recently published a report by social scientist Gregory Paul. The report is entitled “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.”

The study contradicts a commonly held belief that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society. Belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society, but may actually contribute to social problems.

Mr. Paul’s report is based on a decade long, cross-national collaboration on social science surveys of 38 nations and 23,000 interviews. The study assessed such issues as societal health and dysfunction, measuring rates of homicide, youth suicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, and abortion data. This data was analyzed relative to the nations that had the highest rates of absolute belief in God as creator, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer, and Biblical literalism.

The report concludes, “The populations of secular democracies are clearly able to govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical ‘cultures of life’ that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developing democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards.”

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. Rates of gonorrhea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less theistic pro-evolution secular democracies. The US also suffered from “uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates.

The report is confirmed by US experience. Those states with the highest degree of religiosity (red states) have markedly worse rates of societal dysfunction as measured by rates of homicide, STD, youth pregnancy, divorce and spousal abuse. Those states with the lowest levels of religiosity (blue states) have the lowest measures of societal dysfunction. Northeastern states in the US duplicate the European results in both lower religiosity and lower societal dysfunction.

The report states, “The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator…. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”  In contrast, “The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Though Mr. Paul does not state the reasons for the disparity, a strong possibility is that secular education teaches problem solving with an emphasis on credible evidence, rational thought, and continual re-evaluation. Whereas, religious faith-based problem solving is inherently non-rational, utilizing fabricated evidence as a basis for absolute, irrefutable once-and-for-all conclusions, which often leads to irrational destructive actions.

It must be remembered that correlation is not causation. It could be that high levels of social dysfunction fuel religiosity rather the other way around. Regardless of what motivates religiosity, we must face the fact that religion, especially fundamentalism (whether Muslim or Christian) can be very dangerous to society. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, America’s highly vocal religion lobby will propagandize with blood and tears for its premier myth of religion’s societal benefits.

Lee Salisbury is a former evangelical preacher, founder of the Critical Thinking Club of Minnesota, and writes for and

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Other Articles by Lee Salisbury

* Fundamentalist Christianity: A Dangerous Force When it Denies Rational Scientific Thinking
* Monkeys are Preferable as Ancestors Over the Bible’s God Anytime!
* America's Most Insidious, Immoral Movement
* The Fundamentalist Christian Mindset and the Problem it Presents for America
* Common Sense is Anathema to Bible-believing Creationists
* Santa Claus, Jesus, and the Solstice
* Do You Condemn Gays Because the Bible Tells You So?
* History's Troubling Silence About Jesus

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