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Is religion beneficial or harmful to society?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Obi-Wan McCartney, Dec 1, 2008.

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  1. Obi-Wan McCartney

    Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Aug 17, 1999

  2. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I think it would be good for them to look at the US in terms of the religious population in the different states and compare abortion rates, divorce, alcoholism/drug abuse, murder, etc. Since we have a common language and laws, it should be easier than comparing the European countries vs the US where there might be other factors involved.

    A good way to determine 'religiousness' of each state is to have the religious leaders decide and work from there. Otherwise, there might be calls of unfairness. It should be relatively easy to track how the states are doing with different 'evils' once the religious 'metric' is in place.

    I believe the article is correct but I'm not impartial.
  3. DarthBoba

    DarthBoba Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jun 29, 2000
    I'd agree with your Too Much is bad idea, personality.

    And China was heavily religious for a hell of a lot longer than it's been atheist, obviously.

    As for higher rates of violence and STD infection-I'd seriously doubt those are tied to religion in any meaningful way. The most violent & desitute areas of our cities are the ones where jobs just don't exist anymore; I'd say economic disenfranchisement is the leading contributor to alot of our societal problems.

  4. Quixotic-Sith

    Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jun 22, 2001
    I think it would depend on the type of religion within society. Monotheistic and polytheistic religions have a terrible tendency towards acts of extremism. I haven't seen as much violence from religions like Buddhism.
  5. Lord Vivec

    Lord Vivec Chosen One star 8

    Apr 17, 2006
    Remember, though, that the extremists are people who take things too far. It is not the fault of the religion itself.
  6. Mr44

    Mr44 VIP star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    May 21, 2002
    What I think is that it's really annoying to have studies thrown about that make no mention of the methodology used or make any attempt to define the terms used in the study itself.

    Now, as I've mentioned from time to time, I'm not the most religious person from the standpoint of background or knowledge, but how is England "more of a secular nation" compared to others like the US?

    According to the Church of England, attendance figures have remained fairly steady over recent years, with minor fluctuations. The Church of England has 13,000 individual churches/facilities within England alone, and this is just factoring in the Church of England, not any other religions in the UK.


    Furthermore, I thought the whole point of a Monarchy is that the Royal family exists because of the concept of Divine Right. Now, I think perhaps that an argument can be made that this role of the Royal Family has diminished in popular culture, but the institution remains the same.

    I guess what I'm asking is how the study differentiates between a country with an established church and a institution linked to divinity with other more "religiously based" countries? Are church attendance rates compared? Are official institutions examined? Was it even asked what people consider to be religion?

    Also, it's interesting to see the justifications used to indicate how one country is "more unhealthy" than another. The study looks like it uses crime rate as a major point of comparison, but the UK has higher per capita rates of numerous other criminal categories than the US. Because the US has a higher single homicide rate, all the others are ignored. So, if one country has higher rates of robbery, burglary, physical battery, auto theft, and sexual assault- none of that matters, because the metric for "healthiness" is determined only by the murder rate?

    I'd say that(without seeing the actual perimeters of the study) it looks like the author simply started from a set conclusion and reversed engineered an article to support her starting point.

    EDIT: Or the short answer is that I agree with Boba and Quix. I think there would have to be some basis for comparison listed before it makes any sort of sense.
  7. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I would agree that it would have been good to have a link to the various parameters and metrics. However, CoE attendance may not be the measure of religiousness. More likely, the population as a whole may have answered questions in a survey - but we don't know that without links.
  8. Kimball_Kinnison

    Kimball_Kinnison Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Oct 28, 2001
    One example that you could use is to look at the state of Utah. It is possibly the most religiously-homogeneous state in the US. It also has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates, a violent crime rate about half of the national average, the lowest cancer rates, and the highest life expectancy of all of the states. Some of these factors (such as the health-related ones) can be almost directly tied to doctrines of the LDS Church (such as the Word of Wisdom), which is the dominant religion in Utah.

    But, that's just a single example. The exact details would probably vary a bit depending on the specific religion examined and its effects. Some would be stronger in some areas, and others would be stronger in other areas.

    Ultimately, religions are so varied in their teachings and practices that you can't just lump them all together.

    Kimball Kinnison
  9. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    Yes, Utah also has the highest rate of depression.

    Among adults, rates of depression in the past year were among the highest in Utah (10.14%) and Rhode Island (9.88%) and among the lowest in Hawaii (6.74%) and New Jersey (6.81%).

    Go, New Jersey! Although we have high cancer rates due to industry. The healthy lifestyle is more due to climate and the opportunity for outdoor activity than anything else. Colorado has a healthy lifestyle as well.

    Minnesota, which has held the top spot in 11 of the 17 years of the survey, was cited for, among other things, its low rate of uninsured (8.4 percent), low percentage of children in poverty (10 percent), and low infant mortality rate (5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births). state-by-state

    A look at America's health rankings over the years
    State................. 2006 2005 1990
    Minnesota 1 1 1
    Vermont 2 2 16
    New Hampshire 3 3 5
    Hawaii 4 5 9
    Connecticut 5 7 7
    Utah 6 4 8
    Massachusetts 7 9 10
    North Dakota 8 6 2
    Maine 9 8 13
    Wisconsin 10 13 3

    I wouldn't say Mass or Conn or Maine are particularly religious. Plus NH, Conn and Mass are very liberal states.

    The thesis needs links. Without knowing what the criteria were, it's pretty easy to mold the results.
  10. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    Unless we are talking about a society without separation of church and state, I'd day overall a person holding religious/spiritual beliefs is more beneficial than harmful to society, although of course the potential exists for both great benefit and great harm. A lot of times theocratic societies end up causing the very social ills they are trying to prevent.

    For the people who say there would be world peace if there was no religion, if they actually looked at the causes of most religious wars they would see it usually has its own underlying economic causes, and the leaders just rally the people using religion even though the true reasons are usually economic. If religion were to disappear from the world completely tomorrow it would not become a better place, I think it may even be worse off.
  11. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003
    As others have covered, this article doesn't give enough details of the actual publication. Without it (and even with it) it's difficult to know that you've appropriately controlled for the effects of religion as opposed to "conditions in a place that happens to be religious." That's leaving out the entire discussion about the difference between correlation and causation. That said, Quix, you realize the ruling junta in Burma claims Buddhist religious authority for its rule, and is a heavy patron of that religion? Of course, Buddhists are also among the leaders of the protest against the regime, but that's often the case. I think that, in general, it's more the case that because religion is so powerful, it has a high susceptibility to being abused. I'm not sure it's anything in particular about one religion or another that causes that sort of thing to happen.
  12. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    A correlation between two factors does not equate to one factor causing the other, no matter how large the sample. It is merely a correlation. This is the number one reason why statistics usually make for useless materials in a debate -- because they are mere facts, and have no theory explaining their incidence which can be credibly tested.

    Making allowances for the fact this article was written to grab the maximum headline attention without providing the specifics of the survey, but on what rationale do the authors conclude that it is the presence of a religion which raises the incidence of these ills and not other factors? Population and sheer urban mass springs to mind for one, especially when you're considering a 200-million-strong country like the US opposed to, say, 20 million in Australia.

    "?The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.?

    If that comment is a direct quote from the scientist involved, that's a very wild claim to make on the strength of one study where other factors haven't been ruled out.

    Also, it lacks a credible control sample: China, where the nation is (apparently) atheist and therefore provides a truer sample of the effect (or lack thereof) of religion on the incidence of societal ills. Does anyone here want to believe that the appartchiks in Beijing would have allowed Gallup to collect verifiable, credible data on subjects like abortions, murder rates, STDs, teenage pregnancies and the like? I suspect the answer is "No", which is why the authors went looking for data in other "non-religious" nations. (And again the basic assumptions and scales involved are missing -- what is a "high" figure? What is considered a "low" figure? How do separate "religious" from "nonreligious" countries? Is it a matter of a percentage of the populace being Christian?

    This is not to say that religion is necessarily better for a society to have it than not; quite the contrary, I'm rather unconvinced that is so, especially these days with what passes for spirituality in the Western world. But this survey -- as written -- is an asinine means of trying to prove religion is bad because the correlation is supposedly higher.

  13. Lowbacca_1977

    Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master star 6

    Jun 28, 2006
    The way that study was conducted seems to have some serious flaws.
    For example, suicide is mentioned as a societal ill.

    Using [link=]NationMaster[/link]'s numbers from 2004 for death by self-harm...
    [all numbers per million]

    Japan 215
    Finland 145
    Sweden 95
    Norway 92
    Canada 83
    Australia 83
    U.S. 82
    UK 6

    No data for France, and Canada and Australia weren't mentioned, but Japan and Scandanavia TOTALLY beat out the U.S.'s suicide rates, so to mention suicide as an example of an ill doesn't make sense when the numbers don't bear it out much.
  14. Eternity85

    Eternity85 Jedi Knight star 3

    Jan 24, 2008
    Is religion beneficial or harmful to society?

    As stated before, its not the Religion itself. But rather the individual interpretation of a Religion. IMO Fundamentalism is not a good thing, this is very common in Religion, and can be the cause of many conficts that did not need to be. A closed mind is difficult to reason with, and they will not understand or accept anything but the written word.

    Extremists of course is the minority, but still a great threat to society. This is a very complex & difficult issue. Religion is a way of life, a way to give our existence a purpose, a meaning, but how people can do the things they do in the name of their belief is tragic.
  15. Jedi Merkurian

    Jedi Merkurian New Films Thread Reaper and Rumor Naysayer star 6 Staff Member Manager

    May 25, 2000
    What I take away from this study is that there are many folks who say they are followers of any given religion. However, it looks like those selfsame people are not actually following the dictates of the religion they claim to believe in.
  16. Gonk

    Gonk Jedi Knight star 6

    Jul 8, 1998
    As far as suicide rates, I think some of these things are collary effects. As Lowie noted, Japan has extremely high rates.

    This has nothing most likely to do with religion or lack of religion, but with Japan's notion of dishonor and mollification within it's own society. There is probably a sword that cuts back on this as well in that Japan enjoys an extremely low crime rate. Incredibly low, in fact. So there's some trade-off there that has little if anything to do with religion.

    In the effect that religion may or may not be harmful to a society would probably depend on a lot of things. I would say, as a rule, that if not taken to an incredible extreme religion is actualy healthy for the INDIVIDUAL, and helps on very small-scale levels. The extremes to which it is unhealthy are adherents for which it regularly would interfere in everyday affairs -- points to which most fundamentalists would not take it.

    This also, BTW, surmises that the individual in question is happy with thier religious choice and has not had it forced upon them by either family or community if they are unwilling. That of course would be an unhealhy individual example.

    HOWEVER, in the greater sphere in how it extends to other individuals, religion is most definately unhealthy in many aspects. While it might have positive effects on the believer, there's a lot of unseen remifications it has on those not of the belief. Because a believer -- who often has these benefits -- is forced to make decisions based on that belief that has adverse effects on those that are not part of those beliefs.

    This can stretch all over the place. An extreme case would be what happened in Mumbai: those terrorists by all accounts seemed very happy to die and kill non-believers. If they were unhappy prior, the degree to which it was becuase they were of the Islamic faith is interminable I would imagine. But it's probably quite clear that it seemed to be having positive effects on them at the time... at the obvious expense of others.

    Less extreme cases would be the issue of gay marriage. Religious organizations feel it incumbent upon them to resist the notion both secularly and religiously whether or not thier church is affected. In doing so they perhaps have a positive affect of feeling they are doing the right thing in preventing this on all levels.

    However this positive effect comes again at the expense of others.
  17. Espaldapalabras

    Espaldapalabras Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 25, 2005
    As far as Utah depression goes, I think it could be because the religious values create an environment where there isn't a stigma in seeking treatment for depression. Besides where others might self medicate, here people don't.
  18. New_York_Jedi

    New_York_Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 16, 2002
    Even assuming the United States is incredibly dysfunctional compared to other countries, and there is a correlation between religion and that dysfunction, I'm not sure how they reach the conclusion that "the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills." I could just as reasonably say the causality runs the other direction- people in dysfunctional countries turn to religion as something they can rely on. Or alternately, people in less dysfunctional countries feel they don't need religion and turn away from it.
  19. Alpha-Red

    Alpha-Red Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Apr 25, 2004
    The U.S. also happens to be far more capitalistic than Europe, so less government funding for social programs might be a better correlation with the societal problems described.

    Although, if religion breeds intellectual laziness then I would say yes it is harmful to society, but not for the same reason.
  20. Espaldapalabras

    Espaldapalabras Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 25, 2005
    I don't know much about religions around the world, but at least here in Utah is seems obvious that religion has been a net good for the community. KK has already mentioned some of the things, but if it hadn't been for religion, the intermountain west wouldn't have been colonized. You would have had some random mining towns, but Mormon pioneers really formed the backbone of the infrastructure of irrigation that developed an otherwise barren area. I suppose if you saw all human development into "natural" areas you could view this as a bad thing, but that is just human nature. I guess another way you could look at it that religion here has prevented people from doing a lot of "fun" things that aren't helpful to society as a whole. Drinking is something that individuals enjoy but there is a clear social cost involved. It decreases productivity and increases traffic accidents. So if the result of not drinking is higher reporting of depression and use of pharmaceutals, I think that that is good for society as a whole. The only percievable loss is to individual enjoyment, but that doesn't affect society.

    The only real cost of religion to society here in Utah from religion that I think is significant is from southern Utah polygamous groups who have cut themselves off from the national economy. But even most of them have been integrated into it via technology because they can work in a call center in the middle of nowhere on the Utah/Arizona border.
  21. Master_Starwalker

    Master_Starwalker Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 20, 2003
    I'm roughly on the same page.

    Edit: As for the study, it's interesting, but I think that it has a number of problems such as the fact that there are a number of differences between Europe and the US which would factor into their findings other than religiosity.
  22. SuperWatto

    SuperWatto Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 19, 2000
    Well, since the study supposedly 'counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society', and the guy who conducted it is primarily a paleontologist, I guess he has an agenda of sorts.

    If we're going anywhere with this topic, I think it would be best to leave this study for what it is.
  23. nancyallen

    nancyallen Jedi Padawan star 4

    Nov 19, 2007
    Switch religion for belief. A friend of mine said how atheist activists become religious extremists who read The God Delusion rather than the Bible. You think such people are honestly not as bad if not worse than those whose only crime is following religion?
  24. SuperWatto

    SuperWatto Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 19, 2000
    What do you mean, specifically, Nancy?
  25. nancyallen

    nancyallen Jedi Padawan star 4

    Nov 19, 2007
    Millinniumany3k said it well on Atheist Revolution when he said how under the flags of such an uprising hatred for people's beliefs would still be pushed, intolerance for those who did not think the way they did would still be rampant, it'd just be atheist activists flying the flag rather than Christians or Muslims. That doesn't put them very high on the food chain.
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