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Old 09-28-2005, 02:55 PM   #1
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belief in God harms quality of life on earth

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The Times

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

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. ...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article...798944,00.html
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:06 PM   #2
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Interesting. I personally believe in a higher power though I'm not religious. However, I've known quite a few atheists in my time and they happen to be among the most ethical people I've ever known.
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:32 PM   #3
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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.
Is..... isthat true...?

Are many people really this deluded?

wow........


Nice find, Irvine.


I agree with the article, though. If I could, I'd think I'd live in Japan. The birthplace of Zen, the culture, the music.... I think I really have to check it out. Maybe I can do an exchange program there...... but there are isn't much living space in the tiny country....

darn
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:36 PM   #4
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I don't think it is ALL religion that causes societal ills, but I do think that conventional religion is a huge problem. There was someone on television recently who was lashing out over Hurricane Rita and wondered why there was no one helping. He said he went to church and believed in God and wondered why God wasn't helping and thought he might as well be a sinner now. And I think that IS a lot of the problem. "God" is being presented to people for all the wrong reasons, and it is being used as an excuse for self-righteousness, elitism, and a justification of prejudice, rather than a tool to renounce those vices. And the MINUTE everything starts to unravel materialistically, these same people start to question their faith and wonder if God exists. Indeed, it is no coincidence that Christian fundamentalism hit a peak in the 1920s and unraveled completely during the Great Depression, only to return around the wealth of the last three decades.

I think HOW we present Christianity has become the problem in the U.S., not the existence of Christianity itself. But I do want to add that it is not only "Christianity" that's a problem. Judaism fuels the conflict in Israel, with the nature of the "Holy Land" turning into a violent cult; the same goes for Islam in the Palestinian territories. Hinduism has been used to fuel nationalism in India. Same with Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There is a pervasive problem of unscrupulous "false prophets" using religion as a tool for political and economic means. And the U.S. just happens to not be immune from a tool of third-world corruption this time.

Melon
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:38 PM   #5
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Originally posted by For Honor
I agree with the article, though. If I could, I'd think I'd live in Japan. The birthplace of Zen, the culture, the music.... I think I really have to check it out. Maybe I can do an exchange program there...... but there are isn't much living space in the tiny country....
There's plenty of space in Japan. All the population density is concentrated in the urban areas and they have wide open rural areas like everywhere else.

Melon
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:48 PM   #6
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Good points, Melon, and an interesting article, one that I'm sure will stir some debate. People have done many things, both extremely good and bad, in God' name. I am a believer myself, but not really what I would call "religious", and there IS a difference. Religion to me alludes to organized religion, which I'm just not a fan of right now. There is too much misguided bigotry and hate going on, supposedly in the name of God. To me, this ultra-conservative theology is very counterproductive to societal progress because it is used in a very divisive way, especially here in the U.S. Many people become turned off of faith and God in general because of this, too, and that is a shame, because I see the beauty and value in it for myself.

A prime example of this alienation is seen among gay people, and I'm one, so I know a little bit about this. Some gay people tend to be easily swayed to the non-believing side, IMO, and it's not hard to see why. Look at the horrible things said and done against them, again, in God's name. I blame the likes of evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and now seemingly, these religious politicians who blur the lines of church and state.

This is a shame, too, because I believe that God loves gay people, and many others that are left out of the model posed by conservatives.

All in all, I don't think that all faith should be considered bad for society, that is just too much of a stretch for me. But, I can see how the way faith is taught and used can make big difference in it's perceived strengths and weaknesses.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:12 PM   #7
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The connections seem pretty weak. How many other factors differentiate us from other democracies? Seems like far too many variables.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


There's plenty of space in Japan. All the population density is concentrated in the urban areas and they have wide open rural areas like everywhere else.

Melon

Really? Awesome.

Great... maybe I could find someplace that isn't too far away from a city, or college or something. Or maybe I could be a famer, like my great grandparents.

but in Japan

heh
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
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.
Only in the prosperous democracies? This in itself should raise a red flag for the thesis. Given the universalist claims being made, if the correlation holds true in LA or Atlanta, it should also hold true in Jakarta, Bombay, Cairo, Bhutan or Jerusalem.

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

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.
I'm not a sociologist, but I know of no broadly accepted definition of the term "dysfunctional" that legitimates its being measured through STD rates. Last time I checked, gonorrhea and syphilis infect without regard for the religious views of their sufferers, much like AIDS (for example).

I suspect our combination of poor gun control and radical individualism has more to do with our appalling murder rate than how many of us believe in God.
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...the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution.
Rather than?
Quote:
The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.
Fair enough; I personally would never argue that religion is necessary for "healthy moral and ethical foundations." That, however, is very different from declaring it intrinsically hostile to them.


I suspect the findings of this study could just as accurately be summarized as, "Attraction to authoritarian religious institutions emphasizing shaming, punishment and strict social control is more often a symptom of 'dysfunctional' societies than an antidote for them." Scientific? No. But I don't see much evidence of adherence to the principles of empiricism in this study, either.

In some ways this article reminds me of a well-supported and sharp-witted, but extraordinarily sadistic and mean-spirited political essay called "Fuck the South" a fellow Southern Jewish progressive forwarded to me a couple years ago. The useful part of this essay was the statistics it amassed to illustrate that, certain self-flattering notions of some Southern conservatives notwithstanding, the nation's lowest divorce rates, domestic violence rates, teen pregnancy rates, etc. were almost without exception to be found in those Northern hotbeds of librul hedonism such as Massachusetts. The rest of the piece, unfortunately, was vicious reflexively anti-Southern garbage, and it was clear that the author was really only interested in the potential of the statistics to confirm his (widely enough held) view of Southerners as inbred submoronic hypocrites. This piece is far more measured--it's based on scholarly research, and The Times is an honourable journalistic institution--but I'm afraid the overall dynamic here gave me an unpleasant jolt of deja vu.

I'm also surprised the various authors involved seemingly all overlooked the familiar "crutch" theory of religious belief as an emotional defense against perceived threats in the social environment. Although this, too, can be and often is used in a patronizing way, I do think it has *some* merit for explaining the disproportional presence of conservative religious beliefs and practices among the world 's poor, disenfranchised and "dysfunctional."
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:27 PM   #10
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I can't buy into this. I am a healthier, more life-loving person because of my faith even though i dont belong to an organized religion and though religion has been the bad weapon of faith in many cases, i cant see it at the root of all evil. look what happens when people dont think that there is anything above humans, nothing to answer to.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:31 PM   #11
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Originally posted by melon
Indeed, it is no coincidence that Christian fundamentalism hit a peak in the 1920s and unraveled completely during the Great Depression, only to return around the wealth of the last three decades.
So how do you explain the explosion of underground Christianity in North Korea? China? The explosive growth of the church in South Africa?

Considering most of the Western church is in decline, it would seem that our modern age seems to be bearing out that religion actually thrives in desolate places and withers in prosperous...

Didn't Jesus say something about how it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God?

And people like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and -- lest we forget -- Jesus are fairly universally regarded as forward thinking people who brought humanity forward. And all did so because of their faith.

Stuff to ponder.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977


So how do you explain the explosion of underground Christianity in North Korea? China? The explosive growth of the church in South Africa?
Read his post again:



Quote:
Indeed, it is no coincidence that Christian fundamentalism hit a peak in the 1920s and unraveled completely during the Great Depression, only to return around the wealth of the last three decades.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977

And people like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and -- lest we forget -- Jesus are fairly universally regarded as forward thinking people who brought humanity forward. And all did so because of their faith.


agreed about JC and MLK; do not agree about Mother Theresa.

she exploited suffering.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
Judaism fuels the conflict in Israel, with the nature of the "Holy Land" turning into a violent cult; the same goes for Islam in the Palestinian territories... here is a pervasive problem of unscrupulous "false prophets" using religion as a tool for political and economic means.
I know you didn't mean it in this way, but because too many do, I have to object here. Ethnocentric Zionism fuels the conflict in Israel, and it is an ideology straight out of the annals of 19th century secular European nationalist thought, whose principles all the modern European nations (and, indeed, the concept of the nation-state generally) are based upon. "We are a nation because we say we are, and on this basis we claim political autonomy over Region X and all the people in it." Manifest Destiny comes from this line of thought too, as do Arab nationalism and Hindu nationalism. But I will grant it is a particularly knotty issue for diaspora populations like Jews and Gypsies, who not coincidentally have suffered immeasurably for want of such a "safe" haven.

Nonetheless, you are right that this phenomenon is at its ugliest and most toxic when combined with religious fundamentalism. I felt it was important to point out that most militant Zionists (just like most militant Hindu nationalists, etc.) are not religious. Israel IS a constitutionally secular state; to a very large extent, it is that demographically as well.

OK, I'll shut up for a while now.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977
So how do you explain the explosion of underground Christianity in North Korea? China? The explosive growth of the church in South Africa?
Look at the difference between Christianity during the Roman Empire and a few hundred years later during the Middle Ages. The early Christian church was highly inclusive and even had female priests for the first 500 years of its existence. Then, once the oppression of the Roman Empire was lifted, Christianity slowly became as oppressive as their oppressors, surpassing the Romans in their suppression of difference and expanded on their methods of torture. The Roman Catholic Church is credited with creating the seeds of modern capital punishment. Is it just me, or does anyone else think there's something wrong with that?

And that's just it. In North Korea, in China...Christianity is the "rebel" against their oppression, but the minute the governments of both countries fall, Christianity will go back to its old habits and be as oppressive as the oppressors it fought against. In Iraq, a lot of "revolutionary" fervor was put towards the Shi'ite clerics, but do you think they will remain "revolutionary" forever? When things settle down, they'll be the first to push for Sharia law and be just as oppressive as Saddam ever was to his own people.

And that's why I said that conventional religion is the problem, not all religion. Religion IS being used as an opiate for the masses, because very few people will step back and question the crap that spews from their powerful church leaders. That includes everyone from Ayatollah Khameini to Pat Robertson to Pope Benedict XVI and down to the ministers and priests at the local level. Something has to change or religion will forever remain some reactionary force in the minds of many.

Melon
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