Sunday, October 02, 2005

Religiosity and Societal Health

The Journal of Religion and Society recently published a paper that attempts to examine levels of religiosity and secularism to determine the correlational level regarding societal health.

The publication was covered in the NY times, demonstrating that even in such a newspaper, there is a misunderstanding of the correlation/causation distinction.
(1) Excerpt from the paper:
"This is not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health. It is hoped that these original correlations and results will spark future research and debate on the issue."
(2) First line of the NYTimes article:
"Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today."
(Such is the sad discrepancy between science and science reporting)

Know that it is a preliminary study and the author does try to point that out several times. I agree with Paul that it provides empirical data illustrating that "
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 paper provides falisification for the notion that believing in a God is required for morality.
The figures are not immediately intuitive, but they are useful. I present Figure 5 that shows the correlation between life expectancy and religiosity.

The article is worth reading if only for meta- analyzing it (or if you just want to see how poorly the US does regarding societal health- quite concerning.)


Anonymous Jeff said...

I've read another paper suggesting that, in the US, degree of religiosity is positively correlated with degree of obesity. I can't remember many details, but I (think I) remember reading that this was particularly true when Baptists from the Southern States were considered. Take from that what you will.

I presented this paper to my 2nd year research methods class, mostly because I thought it was funny, and I think it was somewhat poorly designed (at least from the idealistic view of a 2nd year student).

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Xander said...

Hey, interesting piece. I alway get upset by the fallacy that religion is necessary for morality. I was watching an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. One of his guests, presented as a moderate Christian Republican, was upset with the Bush administration and the highjacking of the Republican party by fanatic Christian lobbists. He condemned the actions of the Bush administration but defended Christianity from Bill's criticism by claiming that morality survived the dark ages through the bible and the word of Jesus Christ. Bill failed to point out to my disapointment that the inverse is true. It is by the grace of moral concepts that religion survives.
Love thy neighbor, don't maliciously decieve: These are concepts are sound and readily accepted by reasonable people. These ideas are put in religious texts inviting people to make the fallicious assumption that since these obvious sound truths are in there everything in there must be truth. The religious texts also often claim to have authored these ideas. In this way religion insidiously ties itself to morality and you get a world where the majority of the population thinks you can't love your neighbor or avoid malicious deceit without hacking off the foreskins of infant boys and the libia of pubescent girls.

11:05 AM  

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