28 September 2007

National Religiosity and Social Indicators

Hell's Handmaiden highlights an academic study published in the Journal of Religion and Society by Gregory S. Paul in 2005, comparing more religious countries with less religious countries, and the comparison flatters the secular ones. The United States is the most religious prosperous democracy in the world.

How does national religiosity correlate with crime?

A few hundred years ago rates of homicide were astronomical in Christian Europe and the American colonies (Beeghley; R. Lane). In all secular developed democracies a centuries long-term trend has seen homicide rates drop to historical lows (Figure 2)…. Despite a significant decline from a recent peak in the 1980s (Rosenfeld), the U.S. is the only prosperous democracy that retains high homicide rates, making it a strong outlier in this regard (Beeghley; Doyle, 2000). Similarly, theistic Portugal also has rates of homicides well above the secular developed democracy norm. Mass student murders in schools are rare, and have subsided somewhat since the 1990s, but the U.S. has experienced many more (National School Safety Center) than all the secular developed democracies combined.

How does a nation's religiosity correlate with sexually transmitted diseases?

Although the late twentieth century STD epidemic has been curtailed in all prosperous democracies (Aral and Holmes; Panchaud et al.), rates of adolescent gonorrhea infection remain six to three hundred times higher in the U.S, than in less theistic, pro-evolution secular developed democracies (Figure 6)…. The U.S. also suffers from uniquely high adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, which are starting to rise again as the microbe’s resistance increases (Figure 7). The two main curable STDs have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia.

How does a nation's religiosity correlate with abortion?

Increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator, and negative correlation with increasing non-theism and acceptance of evolution; again rates are uniquely high in the U.S. (Figure 8). Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data. Early adolescent pregnancy and birth have dropped in the developed democracies (Abma et al.; Singh and Darroch), but rates are two to dozens of times higher in the U.S. where the decline has been more modest (Figure 9).

Correlation is not necessarily causation. But, a factor that isn't correlated isn't a leading cause of something. While this data doesn't prove that national religiosity causes bad social outcomes in the United States, it does show that national religiosity isn't a leading cause of good outcomes. If it was, secular countries would have poor results, while religious ones would have good ones.

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