Religion Troubling

Study: Religion Dangerous

A study in the Journal of Religion and Society (volume 7, 2005) by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul finds religiosity correlated with higher degrees of social dysfunction.

Paul, of Baltimore, Md., tested the popular assumption that religiosity is socially beneficial. Paul writes that the United States is the only significant exception” to the extensive secularism occurring in western nations. His study cites theistic claims that evolutionary science leads to moral decay, papal decrees that secular material leads to “cultures of death,” and media coverage of assertions that humans are “hardwired” to believe in a divine creator.

Ranking societies based on the percentage of the population expressing absolute belief in God, frequency of prayer, and frequency of reported church attendance, Paul correlated this data with rates of homicide, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.

Of nations studied, Paul found the United States–with the largest group of bible literalists and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics–has the highest levels of homicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion.

Japan, Scandinavia and France, the most secularized western nations, have far lower rates. The United States is the only prosperous first world nation to exhibit rates of religiosity otherwise limited to second and third worlds.

“When it comes to ‘values,’ if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust,” analyzed Rosa Brooks about the study (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 1, 2005).

Six of the seven states with the highest 2003 homicide rates were “red” (supposedly influenced by fundamentalist turnout) in last year’s elections: Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina. Infant mortality is highest in the South and Southwest, yet lowest in New England (“blue” state), ditto divorce rates, and teen pregnancy.

“We shouldn’t shy away from the possibility that too much religiosity may be socially dangerous. Religious faith is inherently nonrational. . . historically, societies run into trouble when powerful religions become imperial and absolutist,” Brooks muses. “The claim that religion can have a dark side should not be news,” she added.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted,” Paul concluded in his study.

Texas Clergy Lobby Hard

About 2,000 Texas clergy called on their congregants on Sunday, Sept. 17, to register to vote against gay marriage, which is a ballot referendum in November.

Proposition 2 is a proposed amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union between one man and woman, which would prohibit civil unions. Texas law already bans gay marriage.

“We will have Citizenship Sundays that are intended and designed to encourage the voters then registered to turn out and vote and to vote as Christians, to vote not on the basis of their party affiliation or their economic status or their ethnic background but as Christians,” claims Texas Restoration Project chair Rev. Laurence White of Houston.

Critics point out the Project is working closely with Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican seeking reelection. The Project has hired a political consulting firm which last year did $3.2 million in business with the state GOP and Republican candidates, according to the Houston Chronicle (Sept. 17). The Project, which began in May, holds closed-door “pastor policy briefings” with Perry as a featured guest, while not inviting other candidates.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said the Project should register as a PAC and “appears to be an adjunct of the Republican Party of Texas.”

EEOC Defends Bible Thumper

After three years and an estimated legal bill of $250,000, Serrano’s, a family-owned chain of Mexican restaurants based in Chandler, Ariz., won a lawsuit this summer upholding its secular policy against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Yet its fight is not over.

The EEOC went to bat for bible-toting Serrano’s manager, Terra Naeve. The restaurant, with a longstanding policy barring managers from socializing with subordinates, had fired Naeve when she refused to stop holding bible study with three employees she supervised after reasonable negotiations.

Despite winning before a jury, U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll in late August tossed out the jury verdict and ordered a new trial. The restaurant vows it will never quit its fight.

Gov. Bush’s Latest

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in September announced a $2 million state-sponsored antiabortion contract, in which a tollfree hotline would direct pregnant women to antiabortion service providers.

Freedom From Religion Foundation