Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

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Obviousman
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Today there was a translation/adaptation of this quite interesting article from the Times in my newspaper
The Times wrote:RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.



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 counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital�. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“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.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.�

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high� adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.�

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states,� he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

“The non-religious, proevolution 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.�
My question is, what do you think, does religion indeed have a negative influence on society or could it also support a society. And not if you do or do not believe in God and believe this to be important to you, as that's a whole other discussion (which we already have had?)
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boudicca
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Certainly, looking at most of the countries in Western/Northern Europe - which are as secular as it gets, really - these societies do appear to be more stable (and with a better standard of living across the board) than the US.

Religion is only a part of it though, I think... the American attitude to welfare is pretty rank IMHO, doesn't exactly contribute to social stability...

It could well be a factor, I'd tend toward the belief that it is. I'm just a little hard-pressed to work out exactly how.
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I'm waiting for an "official" response from the"God Squad" :innocent: :lol:
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scotty wrote:I'm waiting for an "official" response from the"God Squad" :innocent: :lol:
Ye'll be waiting a long time...

(BTW is that the same God as the one who keeps striking you down with post-count-destroying thunderbolts? :innocent: )
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I think we should abolish religion, to tell the truth. The stuff just p*sses me off. I have to keep this message short, otherwise I'll go into a massive rant about what I think is wrong with religion.
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nick the stripper wrote:I think we should abolish religion, to tell the truth. The stuff just p*sses me off. I have to keep this message short, otherwise I'll go into a massive rant about what I think is wrong with religion.
You're 17, it's allowed...
:wink: :P

However, I think a society where religion was forcefully repressed would be just as unpleasant. Communist Russia anyone? :urff:
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Personally I don't think religion in itself is wrong, I think it's quite important to give some sense to life for certain people.
However, there's far too much abuse by fanatiscists these days (and throughout history) who think their truth is the only truth and therefore everyone should accept it, no matter what.

So there's nothing wrong with religion, but rather with some believers...
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Isn't this a horribly general report, though? I don't believe that any first-world democracy is fundamentally defined by a religious faith anymore (maybe Israel, but I'd question 'first-world' and 'democracy' there).

Surely any society has a 'religion' of sorts. Officially atheist states such as the USSR or China built a huge cult of personality and faith around politicans and doctrines - Lenin or Mao were merely incarnations of a supreme being, scarcely different from Jehovah or Allah.

Western/Northern Europe arguably builds a sort of unofficial faith around a murky combination of post-enlightenment individualism and straightforward monetary consumerism. Our idols aren't as clear cut as the ones in Iran or Poland, but they exist in their vague way.

The reason we appear to have fewer social problems probably has more to do with a relatively narrow gap between haves and have-nots (that may not seem obvious as you drive from Chiswick to Hounslow, but I'd suggest it's a different journey compared with ones you might take in Latin America or the CIS).

Sadly, I think social problems are simply to do with people. So blaming religion isn't going to cut it.
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Expertly summed up, Mrs RJ, thank-you.

Religion isn't the only problem being suffered by America, and it's not the only cause of the horrors described by that article.

It's just usually the excuse. :wink:
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The Times wrote:He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.
This is what bugs me though. Answers In Genesis Ministries and their evolution-denying ilk notwithstanding, (and no, that's not a spoof site) the Theory of Evolution has nothing to say on the subject of God (or gods or goddesses). It merely contradicts a range of over-literal interpretations of Genesis.

But then again, so do the theories that
  • the Earth is approximately spherical as opposed to a flat disk supported by pillars, with the sky being a dome of some blue metal (which has little doors in it to let the rain through).
  • the Moon "shines" with reflected sunlight rather than its own light
  • the Earth orbits around the Sun as opposed to the idea that the Sun travels under the (flat) Earth at night.
I could go on...

It's perfectly possible to be a Christian (or any religion or lack thereof) and accept evolution, just as it is perfectly possible to be an atheist (or again, any religion) and deny evolution.

There was a program on BBC2 last night about the influence of religion on politics in Britain today. Points mentioned included:
  • the fact that 1/3 of Britons and rising profess no religious belief, yet the number of faith schools is also rising.
  • Of the non-religious, 55% voted in the last general election, yet 65% of the religious voted.
This last point was given as evidence that the religious take more seriously their "social duty" to vote, whereas I submit that it could equally be evidence that the non-religious are more likely to be alienated by the main political parties. Whether that alienation is caused by the political parties' pandering to religious viewpoints is left as an exercise for the class.
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markfiend wrote:There was a program on BBC2 last night about the influence of religion on politics in Britain today. Points mentioned included:
  • the fact that 1/3 of Britons and rising profess no religious belief, yet the number of faith schools is also rising.
That's a bit worrying - would suggest that we're becoming more polarised as a society. Some kids being brought up on strict religious doctrine, others in a completely secular environment.

Jihad on its way, then... :|
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markfiend wrote:There was a program on BBC2 last night about the influence of religion on politics in Britain today. Points mentioned included:
  • the fact that 1/3 of Britons and rising profess no religious belief, yet the number of faith schools is also rising.
  • Of the non-religious, 55% voted in the last general election, yet 65% of the religious voted.
This last point was given as evidence that the religious take more seriously their "social duty" to vote, whereas I submit that it could equally be evidence that the non-religious are more likely to be alienated by the main political parties. Whether that alienation is caused by the political parties' pandering to religious viewpoints is left as an exercise for the class.
Very interesting. It had occured to me before that more radical movements (or groups of people), no matter how small they are, are more likely to want to impose their will onto other people, whereas the big mass has the inclination to take all their rights much more for granted.
Look at terrorism, lobbying, whatever more. It is always a certain group of (more or less) extremist people, of which one or a couple have loads of money, that try to have the world turn their way.

Also the more conservative the group is, the more likely it is to do this. There was this impeachment procedure against Clinton, but Bush has made 1000 more mistakes and does not get this sort of resistance. However, perhaps there will come a time more progressive voices will have lobbies like this on their side as well, so I wonder if all this is actually a very dangerous thing or just a natural thing, that swings from one side to the other...
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Perhaps if people are abandoning their faiths there is a need for religion to be more involved in education in order to maintain these valuable traditions?

Also, what is a faith school? My primary school was a CoE aided establishment. In practise, this meant we had an hour a week with the local rector (who was a top bloke) which mostly dealt with the tales of local saints (Aidan, Cuthbert and Bede) and could be taken as local history as much as religious training. We also had a class communion at the end of our final year, and I recall some sort of multi-school event in Durham Cathedral.

As far as I can see that's just a normal primary education with a bit of RE and a church service thrown in to mark the step up to secondary school. The fact that there were no non-Christian faiths represented in my class has far more to do with the fact that in my village there were a grand total of three non-white families (and yet no takeaway or cornershop, stereotype-busters!) none of whom had children in that school year.

How do political parties pander to religious viewpoints?
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andymackem wrote:Perhaps if people are abandoning their faiths there is a need for religion to be more involved in education in order to maintain these valuable traditions?
I think so, not so much to maintain traditions but to avoid this split in society, where different groups of kids would be raised with little or no knowledge of the other's "truth".

It's pretty inevitable that, if religion is completely pushed out of mainstream schools, those who do want their children to be raised within their own faith will seek out and quite possibly set up establishments where they can do that. The only solution - and I'd like to think it's a feasible one, though I don't know - would be to try and find some way of catering to various religious beliefs within a multi/no-faith school.
If things are changing now (going in the direction of greater polarisation), we have to think what we were doing before, how we kept these groups together, and try to maintain that.
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andymackem wrote:what is a faith school?
CoE schools, Catholic schools, Muslim schools, Jewish schools, Sikh schools.

An interesting point was made by the program maker; he was interviewing (separately) four religious leaders; a Catholic Cardinal Archbishop, a CoE bishop, a Jewish Rabbi, and the leader of the Muslim Council of Great Britain.

He asked all four if members of other faiths were welcome in their faith schools; they all replied that yes, of course they were. He then asked each of the first three whether they would be happy with children of their faith going to a Muslim school. The two Christian leaders both said no. The Rabbi was about to say no, and then realised that it was a double standard and said, laughing, that he would have to "think about that one". When they asked the Muslim guy if he was happy for Muslim children to go to other faith schools, he immediately said, "of course! I went to a Christian school myself when I was a child."

Food for thought there I think.
andymackem wrote:How do political parties pander to religious viewpoints?
The "Incitement to religious hatred" law?
Controls on human embryology and in-vitro fertilisation?
Controls on stem-cell research?
(The Abortion laws are a different matter as they are usually left to a free vote as a matter of conscience.)

The main example, however, was in Rochdale at the last general election where the Lib-Dem candidate (now the MP) openly accused Labour policies of being "Islamophobic". It is assumed that his victory was largely due to the votes of (traditionally Labour-supporting) Muslims.
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markfiend wrote:When they asked the Muslim guy if he was happy for Muslim children to go to other faith schools, he immediately said, "of course! I went to a Christian school myself when I was a child."

Food for thought there I think.
Well it fairly blows the idea that they are all fanatics out the water...
markfiend wrote:The main example, however, was in Rochdale at the last general election where the Lib-Dem candidate (now the MP) openly accused Labour policies of being "Islamophobic". It is assumed that his victory was largely due to the votes of (traditionally Labour-supporting) Muslims.
Ironic, really. You'd generally have the LibDems down as the most secular party of all.
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markfiend wrote:When they asked the Muslim guy if he was happy for Muslim children to go to other faith schools, he immediately said, "of course! I went to a Christian school myself when I was a child."

Food for thought there I think.
i think that has more to do with the perception (and the reality?) of how much influence the different religions have on the educational policy of the school than any perceived lack of tolerance.
andymackem wrote:How do political parties pander to religious viewpoints?
The "Incitement to religious hatred" law?
Controls on human embryology and in-vitro fertilisation?
Controls on stem-cell research?
(The Abortion laws are a different matter as they are usually left to a free vote as a matter of conscience.)
i'll give you the first one but i suspect the other issues have been/would be treated in the same way as votes on abortion? it makes sense logically (but then when did british politics have anything to do with logic?) but i'm prepared to be corrected if someone can be arsed to do the research.
The main example, however, was in Rochdale at the last general election where the Lib-Dem candidate (now the MP) openly accused Labour policies of being "Islamophobic". It is assumed that his victory was largely due to the votes of (traditionally Labour-supporting) Muslims.
and that's just a p*ss-poor lazy piece of hyperbole. unless, of course, you have extensive psephological analysis of that particular result to back up your vague assertion?
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RicheyJames wrote:i'll give you the first one but i suspect the other issues have been/would be treated in the same way as votes on abortion? it makes sense logically (but then when did british politics have anything to do with logic?) but i'm prepared to be corrected if someone can be arsed to do the research.
OK, maybe you're right. I don't think stem cell and embryology stuff is free vote, but I can't be arsed looking it up either
RicheyJames wrote:and that's just a p*ss-poor lazy piece of hyperbole. unless, of course, you have extensive psephological analysis of that particular result to back up your vague assertion?
OK, quick google, the BBC news archive reported a correlation over the constituencies between swings away from Labour, and high Muslim populations. Maybe it was in part a reaction against the Iraq war, but that war was precisely the sort of thing that the Rochdale guy was claiming was "Islamophobic".

Maybe he lucked out in a general Muslim backlash but I don't think his making accusations of that kind is going to upset too many Muslim voters is it?

The fact remains:
  • The Lib-Dem candidate (now MP) for Rochdale accused Labour of Islamophobia.
  • Higher Muslim support (repeated nationally for non-Labour candidates) ensured his victory
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nick the stripper wrote:I think we should abolish religion, to tell the truth. The stuff just p*sses me off. I have to keep this message short, otherwise I'll go into a massive rant about what I think is wrong with religion.
It is exactly that point of view that creates a problem within a society based around religion, not the religion itself.
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hands up who went to a faith school
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JAMES RAY wrote:
nick the stripper wrote:I think we should abolish religion, to tell the truth. The stuff just p*sses me off. I have to keep this message short, otherwise I'll go into a massive rant about what I think is wrong with religion.
It is exactly that point of view that creates a problem within a society based around religion, not the religion itself.
I think I just got berated by James Ray :eek:

I feel like that bloke on Coronation Street who got beat up by Status Quo.
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I became yet another ex-Catholic here...

We had to write AMDG (ad majoram deiam gloriam) in the margin of all our work - for the greater glory of God...

God I miss that place.[/heavy sarcasm] :roll:
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nick the stripper wrote:
JAMES RAY wrote:
nick the stripper wrote:I think we should abolish religion, to tell the truth. The stuff just p*sses me off. I have to keep this message short, otherwise I'll go into a massive rant about what I think is wrong with religion.
It is exactly that point of view that creates a problem within a society based around religion, not the religion itself.
I think I just got told off by James Ray :eek:

I feel like that bloke on Coronation Street who got beat up by Status Quo.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

that was one of the funniest moments in the last 15 years of tv ;D

a "faith" school? nope. C of E, which basically means i'm as godless as they come.
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boudicca wrote:I became yet another ex-Catholic here...

We had to write AMDG (ad majoram deiam gloriam) in the margin of all our work - for the greater glory of God...

God I miss that place.[/heavy sarcasm] :roll:
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