September 2005

Does religious belief damage a society?

There is a short article in the times online about a study that finds more religious democracies worse off in social ills than their less religious counterparts.
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.
I don't doubt the statistics but I have second thoughts on the conclusion. I think that it is more probable that countries with a functioning social safety net tend to become less religious over time. It works something like this, as people feel more confidant that their public services can help them in their hour of need they feel less the need to rely on a higher power. I think a big reason the US is so religious compared to Europe is that they don't have a functioning social safety net, and if one is very cynical, one could even think that the reason the religious right are in bed with the neocons is that they both benefit in different ways from weakening the state.