Saturday, November 25, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Phil Zuckerman On Why Secularism Can't Be A Scapegoat For Society's Ills


Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

The more secular a nation or state is the more peaceful, happy, and less violent it is in general. This is not to say that secularism and less religiosity cause peace, happiness, and violence to decline, I think the causation is the other way around. But the correlations between secularism and peaceful societies show that no one can say that declining religion will cause societies to collapse into violent, lawless states.

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College explains in an LA Times article from 2 years ago that the often heard scapegoating of secularism as the culprit of our nation's woes is horribly misled. (But don't expect religious conservatives to change their tune any time soon.)

Take homicide. According to the United Nations' 2011 Global Study on Homicide, of the 10 nations with the highest homicide rates, all are very religious, and many — such as Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil — are among the most theistic nations in the world. Of the nations with the lowest homicide rates, nearly all are very secular, with seven ranking among the least theistic nations, such as Sweden, Japan, Norway and the Netherlands.

Now consider the flip side: peacefulness. According to the nonprofit organization Vision of Humanity, which publishes an annual Global Peace Index, each of the 10 safest and most peaceful nations in the world is also among the most secular, least God-believing in the world. Most of the least safe and peaceful nations, conversely, are extremely religious.

As professor Stephen Law of the University of London observed: "If a decline in religiosity were the primary cause [of social ills], then we would expect those countries that have seen the greatest decline to have the most serious problems. But that is not the case."


What about within the United States? According to the latest study from the Pew Research Center, the 10 states that report the highest levels of belief in God are Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma (tied with Utah). The 10 states with the lowest levels of belief in God are Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California. And as is the case in the rest of the world, when it comes to nearly all standard measures of societal health, including homicide rates, the least theistic states generally fare much better than the most theistic. Consider child-abuse fatality rates: Highly religious Mississippi's is twice that of highly secular New Hampshire's, and highly religious Kentucky's is four times higher than highly secular Oregon's. 

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