Thursday, May 10, 2007

Religion good for society? It depends....

I've been meaning to point out an interesting essay by Michael Shermer titled "Bowling for God."
A contrast:
"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies...Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies."
"By providing community meeting places, linking neighbors together, and fostering altruism, in many (but not all) faiths, religious institutions seem to bolster the ties of belonging to civic life."
Religious social capital leads to charitable generosity and group membership but does comparatively worse than secular social capital for such ills as homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies. Three reasons suggest themselves: first, these problems have other causes entirely; second, secular social capital works better for such problems; third, these problems are related to what I call moral capital, or the connections within an individual between morality and behavior that are best fostered within families, the fundamental social unit in our evolutionary history that arose long before religions and governments. Thus, moral restraints on aggressive and sexual behavior are best reinforced by the family, be it secular or sacred.

1 comment:

  1. Could be that religion is a reaction to the fear associated with living in a place with lots of crime or perceived crime. Might be interesting to examine how abundance of religion correlates with perceived safety rather than actual safety.