Religion and Societal Dysfunction

Dysfunctional societies and those under extreme stress rely on religion as a coping mechanism; it is “a natural invention of human minds in response to a defective habitat”.

This is one conclusion from Gregory Paul who has released the findings from his research on the incidence of religious belief and how it affects the overall ‘health’ of a society.

[Paul’s] earlier, 2005, research […] 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 results?

The 1st world nations with the highest levels of belief in God, and the greatest religious observance are also the ones with all the signs of societal dysfunction. These correlations are truly stunning. They are not “barely significant” or marginal in any way. Many, such as those between popular religiosity and teenage abortions and STDs have correlation coefficients over 0.9 and the overall correlation with the SSS is 0.7 with the US included and 0.5 without. These are powerful relationships.

As always.

Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman wrote the essay Why the Gods are Not Winning for Edge.