Believe in God, catch the clap

Religion contributes to a more stable, healthy, prosperous society. Right?

A recent study paints a dramatically different picture. Published in the Journal of Religion and Society, it pulls together existing studies about the statistical relationship between religious belief at the societal level and metrics of social health. Although it reaches some interesting conclusions, it raises more questions than it answers.

  • In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

Fascinating, but what is the mechanism at work? Are the people getting gonorrhea the same ones that believe in God, are they the believers’ kids, or are they people way over on the other side of town? Is the mechanism at work here something as simple as zealots preventing sex education in the schools, or is there something about the American style of belief in God that actually promotes unprotected sex and suicide?

  • The U.S. is…the least efficient western nation in terms of converting wealth into cultural and physical health.

Doubtlessly true, but what evidence is there that this is correlated with the high index of religiosity? It could be a parallel American personality trait, albeit one correlated with religious orientation, causing this: a deep-rooted tendency towards shooting from the hip, ignoring problems until it’s too late, and living with messiness.

  • There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.

Ah, yes. The graphic above shows gonorrhea incidence by region in the US; notice how “red” the “red” states are.

The author is a dinosaur researcher, author, and illustrator. In this study he unquestionably has an agenda related to the evolution vs. intelligent design tiff. His findings include, unsurprisingly, the fact that the advanced secular democracies such as Japan, which do better than the US on the social measures, also share strong belief in evolution. By showing this, he hopes to defang the arguments of those like newly-indicted Congressional leader Tom Delay, who once stated

…high crime rates and tragedies like the Columbine assault will continue as long schools teach children “that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud.

What is the neurotheological, or religiobiological, connection? Possibly none, since here we are in the realm of socioreligion. One could hypothesize, however, that the same biological mechanism which predisposes people to theist beliefs also make them more promiscuous. One starting point would be to analyze the sexual behavior of mentally ill people with religious delusions.


4 Responses to “Believe in God, catch the clap”

  1. Geoff Says:

    I’m very sorry for you. I will pray for your eyes to be opened. I do agree with you on one thing though. Religion is a BAD thing. Do you know who else hates religion? Jesus Christ. He called the religios people of his day, “hypocrites,” “A brood of vipers.” Religion is not a good thing. Religion leads to legalism, legalism leads to all these things you’re talking about. What we all need is to be given, as well as to give, grace, mercy and compassion. That’s what Jesus does. If we gave those things the people of our society and taught those concepts, there is absolutely NO WAY to deny the fact that society as a whole would be better off. The USA is becoming the next Soddom and Gamorrah. Not a path with a happy ending. God is not the problem. Putting up with sin and evil ways is the problem.

    What it really boils down to weather people believe it or not is this, “God cannot be mocked.” -Galatians 6:7
    The simple fact that some people choose not to accept the truth, doesn’t make it false. I’ve never seen you, but that doesn’t make you a figment of my imagination, right. Take care brother. Your friend, (No matter how you feel towards me or any other follower of Jesus Christ.) Geoff

  2. Janet Perry Says:

    I appreciate your review very much. As a 43-year old lifelong Roman Catholic, when I finally studied physics and the formation of the universe in recent years, it became very clear to me that there is no supernatural power overseeing us, and that it is preposterous to think that there is. But religion does organize people, for better or worse, and it earns lots of money for many people. Dickens said ignorance is a greater hazard than hunger and want. He was so right.

  3. Julian Says:

    You guys crack me up way too much.

    He’s got statistics, you’ve got platitudes.

    Get your nose out of the Gospel of John for one parsec and smell the coffee, brother.

  4. Ryan Says:

    I don’t think ganorrhea cases per 100,000 has as much to do with religion as it does with poverty, (south has a lot of poverty) and population density (south has high population density compared to states like Montana).

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