Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Religiosity = Social Dysfunction? Looks That Way...

From Delaware Watch...an interesting perspective on the relationship between religion and social dysfunction. Sam Harris points out the data suggesting that red states are generally more socially dysfunctional than blue states, despite red state populations claiming the moral high ground in most cases. In a study entitled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, author Gregory S. Paul writes:

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 developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly....

...Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion.

Delaware Watch then asks...are we surprised?

No, not really....science has always forced societies to come to grips with their social problems...only religion is adept at social illusion.


mhducey said...

Books by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have been on the bestseller list for months. However, both of the authors are "rationalists" who
miss the central point about religion. It is an answer to the
question: "What are the ultimate conditions of human existence?",
and that answer is non-rational, as in this comment by de Chardin:

"... I took the lamp, and leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the
conventional certainties by which social life is superficially
illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At
each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came -- arising from I know not where -- the current which I dare to call my life."

which leads to the state of mind described by Shunryu Suzuki:
"Because you think you have body or mind, you have very lonely
feelings. But when you realize that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe, then you become very strong and your existence becomes very meaningful." [Zen Mind Beginner's Mind]

But there is indeed a BIG problem with religion. At its core it is the fact that history, for human beings, is a learning process. What we need today to answer the ultimate question is different from what they needed a thousand years ago, even a hundred years ago.

"The decline of religion in advanced industrial society is a natural and evolutionary process. It happens whether we comment on it or not. It stems from increased material security and information. With these resources, the self becomes stronger, and so it needs less myth and less sedative to deal with the pain stored in the unconscious.
As the self becomes more mature, it needs less sedation and turns to purer and more direct techniques of contemplation. Thus, paternalism and ritual decline and meditation and equality increase. Religious systems that cling to hierarchy and hypnotic ritual lose constituency, and so a social milieu arises that rejects religious authority. We call this milieu secularism." [Michael H. Ducey, The Secular Spirit]

Harris and Dawkins don't get this, at all. Therefore, their discussions are all beside the point. If you want to think aabout the REAL problem of religion, and the solution, try The Secular Spirit.
You can buy it on amazon dot com, barnes and noble dot com, xlibris
dot com, or read it for free at www.thesecularspirit.com.

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