Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Science Proves Religion is a Scam

It’s been scientifically proven: religion is bad for society.

“Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.” So opened a Times Online article linked to on the popular blog Towleroad.

The article, entitled “Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’,” summarized a report recently published in the Journal of Religion and Society, and continued, “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 “compares the social performance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the U.S., where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution.”

By this point I had already read several things that aroused intense suspicion; the headline alone was bizarre; as Abraham Lincoln famously put it – and as any faithful person ought to agree – the point is not whether God is on your side (He is), but whether you are on His.

The next clue that something was seriously faulty with the report was the bald implication that belief in a creator is incompatible with belief in evolution. It’s not. If you doubt me, turn your attention over to Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board is being sued by a group of concerned parents and teachers for their plan to integrate “intelligent design” within the district’s science curriculum. On the opening day of the hearing, the plaintiffs called exactly one witness: Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, who stated categorically that intelligent design is not science and ought not to be included.

Professor Miller is a Christian.

I was unconvinced that this correlation between faith and social problems was a relationship of causality, and wondered how such a thing could possibly be proven. The simultaneous existence of two things does not indicate one caused the other. I might as well assert, having traveled to Brazil where I observed rainforests full of colorful birds, and then going next to southern Algeria where I observed no pretty birds and only vast sandy wastes, that colorful birds are the cause of rainforests.

As with intelligent design, this report seemed to be taking scientific information and drawing unscientific conclusions. I was curious to see what else it said.

The report, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, states clearly: “Because potential causal factors for rates of societal function are complex…it is not the purpose of this initial study to definitively demonstrate a causal link between religion and social conditions.” [emphasis mine]

Hmm, I got rather a different impression from the Times. Didn’t you?

The report does not conclude at all that “religion” is detrimental to society; it's a fascinating and valuable read, weakened by persistently meaning "Christianity" when it says “religion” and defining “Christianity” as Biblical literalism. The report overlooks that “religion” is diverse; the best it can do is position Senator Joseph Lieberman (!) at the “liberal” end of the spectrum.

The key to uncovering the relationship between social problems and religion is the correlation not between atheists and people of faith, but between people who reject evolution and everyone else. Christian fundamentalism is an anti-intellectual movement; notice how Republican presidential candidates frequently attempt to discredit Democratic candidates or other politicians by describing them as “members of the intellectual elite,” as if that’s a bad thing.

Christian fundamentalism treats God’s greatest gift to mankind – our ability to think – as Satan’s most powerful weapon. The data convincingly shows that the trend toward anti-intellectualism is related to America’s social problems, especially in light of demographics: “Within the U.S., strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution [see what I mean? The author doesn’t understand] are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and midwest having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions…approach European norms.”

What’s really wrong with America is that fundamentalist, anti-evolution, anti-intellectuals are taking over the government. The report quotes a prominent Republican blaming high crime rates on teaching children “that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud.”

That Republican was indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud today.


Matthew said...

I don't think Christian fundamentalists are correctly named. If someone was really gung-ho about the fundamentals of Christ's teachings, I wouldn't have any problem with that. These folks seem far more wrapped up in an orthopracy of their cultural and religous traditions. Two very different concepts....

Andy said...

I am in complete agreement, actually. They're not at all about the "basics," they are all about taking "specifics" out of context and manipulating them to justify ignorant and bigoted lifestyles.

Luke said...

Yeah, it's sad when a paper like the Times misuses science (well, really statistics in this case) to unecessarily bash religion. It's always important that we remember one of statistics's most important rules: correlation does not imply causation.

Anonymous said...

God is real.

I believe that some time in the near future that He will bring on the end.

Please, I want to help you all who are lost. Please repent before it's too late.

Outkaster said...

Religion is a bit of a scam. Faith on the other hand is not.

Religion is merely people playing on your fear of death, fear of the unknown etc...

Faith on the other hand is the ability to trust that which is not tangible.

Live life on your own terms but don't be a dick because it might come back to bite you.

Enough said.

celica421 said...

see your comment is whats wrong to begin with. u shouldnt b nice to people bc of potential punishment. that concept is exactly what the major religions of the world use to control all these sheep. u should b nice to people bc they will suffer if u r not, and its not nice to hurt others who dont deserve it. the irony here is i am the one pointing out how to b a good person, not just keep out of "punishment" and i dont even believe in god. one more thing. who said u have to believe in a god to believe in an afterlife? the answer is u dont, bc i am proof of that. we r aware, which proves to me that we persist. at no point does that prove there is a god.

Jeff said...

I think one of the previous comments that stated we all have to live our lives on our own terms, and it would be great if everyone tried to truly live by the 'golden rule', is ultimately the way it has to be.

To be raised as a 'god-FEARING' child never made sense to me even as a very young boy. We have this forgiving god that is ready to sentence us to an eternity of fire and brimstone if we piss him off? Come on - threats?

More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion and 'loving' gods than anything. I think the Christians are leading the pack too. What's the reasoning there? "You will love 'OUR' god or we'll murder you to make a point?

Believe what you will, but I actually find it somewhat frightening that there are still so many people that believe in this fiction that is the type of thinking people had when they thought there must surely be a chariot that pulls the sun across the sky each day.

I bet if we start some human sacrifices to 'your deity here', he'll fix the financial crisis and global warming

Thankfully organized religion is losing its hold on peolpe, slowly but surely.

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