Far from religion providing an answer to society’s ills, it might be a significant part of the problem. These are conclusions you could draw from a new report.
The report, by Gregory Paul, is summarised by Sue Blackmore in the Guardian. Blackmore is justly cautious about many of Paul’s more contentious conclusions. But they are nonetheless based on some very strong correlations that will make troubling reading for those who believe morals and a virtuous society can stem only from religion.
And they are even more worrying for those who live in the US. Here’s a little montage of what Blackmore says:
I have often quoted his earlier, 2005, research which showed strong positive correlations between nations’ religious belief and levels of murder, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and other indicators of dysfunction. It seemed to show, at the very least, that being religious does not necessarily make for a better society. … In this latest research Paul measures “popular religiosity” for developed nations, and then compares it against the “successful societies scale” (SSS) which includes such things such as homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, corruption, income inequality, and many others. In other words it is a way of summing up a society’s health. The outlier again and again is the US with a stunning catalogue of failures. On almost every measure the US comes out worse than any other 1st world developed nation, and it is also the most religious … he argues that religion is not a deep-seated or inherited tendency. It is a crutch to which people turn when they are under extreme stress, “a natural invention of human minds in response to a defective habitat”. Americans, he says, suffer appalling stress and anxiety due to the lack of universal health care, the competitive economic environment, and huge income inequalities, and under these conditions belief in a supernatural creator and reliance on religious observance provides relief.