Study: Religion harms, doesn’t help, society.

The London Times reports that widespread religious belief is bad for societies:

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 study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional.

Fascinating. The results fly in the face of my understanding of religion (opiate of the masses and all that), so I’d like to reserve judgment until I read the actual paper.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “Study: Religion harms, doesn’t help, society.”

  1. I’m just getting started reading Niebur’s “Moral Man in Immoral Society”, and he may have an insight that is relevant. His core thesis is that while there is great benefit on a personal level from religions development, on a social level the benefits are diluted and inundated by the forces of Moralization and the incentive to egoic aggrandizement reduces the positive effects of religion seen at a personal level.

    As I get deeper into it, I’ll see if there’s more to say. I must admit this is a profoudn result worthy of a lot of consideration.

  2. Thanks to Josh for resuscitating Niebhur. Not read enough these days. The study you (Waldo) cite makes sense, regardless of the religion. Christianity is a good example. The overwhelming benefits of Christian faith (if I may be parochial) are within the individual and within his family. Christians tend to get confused, degraded and diluted when we push our faith into the daily operational details of the secular realm. We will always be in many ways separate from princes and principalities. obviously, some political regimes are more benign than others. . The Constitution of 1787 is about as good as it gets down here for believers. But, “My kingdom is not of this earth.” Christ has been very important to my life here and beyond. But He exists in a plane that makes me want to protect His influence against secular infection and debasement. I do not understand how followers so often attempt to drag Him into politics. Governments are Tee-ball. Religion, faith and the life beyond earthly dimensions are the Show. Much as I love this country, and think it the greatest on earth, and have been willing to risk my life for its founding ideals, I don’t want government teaching matters of faith, I don’t want them sponsoring prayers, I don’t want it injecting my faith into political pledges, I don’t want them instructing on matters of faith concerning creation. Christians, Jews and Muslims ought to be able to make common cause in keeping government out of our non-secular lives. That means deterring pols from playing religious cards in campaigns.

  3. “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s blunders?” -Friedrich Nietzsche

    I believe in God–mainly out of the hope that man alone can’t create such a large clusterfuck we call a world.

  4. Important PS: I must take issue with your slug leading into this. It’s not that religion harms society. Indeed, religion can and often does vastly enrich and improve society. It is the unthinking effort to politicize religion that can (it doesn’t always) harm society. The more accurate way of discussing the issue is that society can harm religion grievously. Politicization of religion corrupts religion AND government. The optimal relationship is one in which society (or government) keeps it distance from the exercise of religion.

  5. NoVa Scout you are not alone. I’m Christian who believes that state-sponsored religion is responsible for much evil in this world . History shows us that the Church isn’t always good. I believe Europeans are more secular because they have suffered greatly for thousands of years from rulers that have imposed their religious beliefs on their people. Those who believed differently were persecuted. That was fresh in the memories of our founding fathers when they made freedom of religion a priority. By all means, don’t tear down Mr. Jefferson’s wall between church and state. Let’s learn science at school and religion in church.

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