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Meditation 914
Critique of Religious Faith
Religious Beliefs Are Harmful (Part 3)

by: Fred Leavitt

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But Maybe Not So Beneficial

Benjamin Franklin stated that "religion will be a powerful regulator of our actions, give us peace and tranquility within our minds, and render us benevolent, useful and beneficial to others." Dostoyevsky wrote, "If God does not exist, then everything is permissible." But a study by Gregory Paul contradicts the belief that religion provides the moral foundations for a healthy society. In fact, religion may contribute to social problems.

Paul used interview data collected by the International Social Survey Program over the course of several years on 23,000 people in 38 nations. The data analyzed rates of religious belief and practice. Among the developed democracies, absolute belief in God, attendance of religious services, Bible literalism, prayer rates, and acceptance of evolution varied greatly.

Paul also used data from the UN Development Programme to assess such issues as societal health, homicide rates, youth suicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, and rates of abortion. He concluded that populations of the more secular democracies, in which the theory of evolution is widely accepted, feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and abortion. Rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate positively with rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion. The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is by almost all measures the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies.

Within the U.S., strong religious beliefs and acceptance of evolution are similarly positively correlated with rates of societal dysfunction. The strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west have 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.

In recent years, many U.S. senators and representatives have received high approval ratings from influential Christian right advocacy groups and flunking grades from the League of Conservation Voters. One reason is that leaders of the Christian right, and millions of their followers, believe the words of a history text that, according to the Providence Foundation, has sold more than 100,000 copies since its first printing in 1989. The book, America's Providential History, is used in home schooling, private and public schools, religious schools, political seminars, discussion groups, colleges, and seminaries.The authors wrote: "The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie (there is only so much) that needs to be cut up so that everyone can get a piece. In contrast, the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth. The resources are waiting to be tapped."

Many in the Christian right believe that the return of the son of God is imminent. Upon His return, the righteous will enter heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. So, a second reason for being unconcerned about destruction of the environment--in fact, being pleased--is that it signals the coming Apocalypse.

Continued > Faith (of Others) is Definitely Beneficial to Some