Monday, October 03, 2005

Religiosity and social dysfunction: "[Paul] found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

"The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

"Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness."

6 comments: said...

Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken wisely here.

As for the study you mention in the first paragraph, I have read of it. I would be interested in the details. For example, the phrase "of the nations studied" is interesting when considered with "[the US] has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God". To me that shows the number of countries studied was very limited. For example, the most christian democracies are almost all in latin america. I believe brazil is 97% catholic. What about India? It is a democracy. It has abundant social disfunction. And it has an abundance of religions. But alas I do not know the percentages. I suspect that the study looked at a very small population such as the US versus scandinavian countries or something like that. It probably failed to consider other differences that might explain the findings such as societal homogeneity. For example, atheist Sweden or Norway has a very homogenous racial mix and low immigration compared to the US. A homogenous society which has not had to integrate a diversity of cultures would intuitively be less dysfunctional.

I fear you have grabbed onto a headline that fit your world view without looking at the underlying reasonableness of the study.

I will do some research and get back to you.

I'm sure you can hardly wait. said...

Here is a reference to the study. Sorry I don't know how to link. said...

The study includes the major countries of western europe, plus japan, australia, canada, new zealand, and the US.

Why were the democracies east of the former iron curtain left out? Aren't they good examples of significantly aetheist countries combined with dysfunction? And where are the buddhist, hindu and moslem democracies of south and southeast asia? How about Taiwan and South Korea? Where is all of latin america? said...

Let's not overlook the author's introduction which says "This study is a first, brief look at an important subject that has been almost entirely neglected by social scientists. The primary intent is to present basic correlations of the elemental data. Some conclusions that can be gleaned from the plots are outlined. This is not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.

He is saying "I wonder if there is something here" rather than "There is something here."

Bernard said...

The study focusses on 'western' countries as we've known them since WW11. This seems appropriate to draw out the US situation, which is something chomsky (among others) has been commenting on for years. The US is unlike any other Western country, it is a fundamentalist place more like Saudi Arabia or Iran than Western Europe. The question is how and why this has come about.

The study also points out that in spite of more fundamentalist religion, there is greater 'immorality' in terms of 'homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.' said...

I read the whole study last night. It does not conclude anything. It says "Look at this. Is there something here? Let's look closer." It does not meet the test of a study and it explicitly says so in the introduction. It does not consider what other causes might lead to the effects in evidence. That is exactly why ALL countries should be included.

The study asks a question. Asking a question is not the same as giving the answer.
It says "here is a question and here is an answer." But it does not do anything to prove that this answer is the correct answer to this question.

Wake up!