This post by Marshall Brain originally appeared at God Is Imaginary.
If God were to exist, wouldn’t you expect there to be a huge benefit to those who follow and obey him? Why, instead, do we see the opposite?
For example, there is growing evidence that the delusion of religion causes significant social dysfunction. Statistical research is revealing the problems that go with religion. For example, a recent article in the Journal of Religion and Society points out that religion is correlated to the significant social difficulties that we can see in America:
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 (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. [ref]
The prevailing view is that religion is harmless even if it is delusional. That turns out not to be the case. America is the most religious country of those studied in the developed world. America also has the biggest problems in terms of things like homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion.
This article by Sam Harris puts it this way:
While most Americans believe that getting rid of religion is an impossible goal, much of the developed world has already accomplished it. Any account of a “god gene” that causes the majority of Americans to helplessly organize their lives around ancient works of religious fiction must explain why so many inhabitants of other First World societies apparently lack such a gene. The level of atheism throughout the rest of the developed world refutes any argument that religion is somehow a moral necessity. Countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on Earth. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005) they are also the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate and infant mortality. Conversely, the 50 nations now ranked lowest in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious. Other analyses paint the same picture: The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious literalism and opposition to evolutionary theory; it is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, STD infection and infant mortality. The same comparison holds true within the United States itself: Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious superstition and hostility to evolutionary theory, are especially plagued by the above indicators of societal dysfunction, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms. Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality—belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction; societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God; each factor may enable the other; or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, these facts prove that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society’s health.
Countries with high levels of atheism also are the most charitable in terms of giving foreign aid to the developing world. The dubious link between Christian literalism and Christian values is also belied by other indices of charity. Consider the ratio in salaries between top-tier CEOs and their average employee: in Britain it is 24 to 1; France 15 to 1; Sweden 13 to 1; in the United States, where 83% of the population believes that Jesus literally rose from the dead, it is 475 to 1. Many a camel, it would seem, expects to squeeze easily through the eye of a needle.
In other words, religion is harmful, not helpful. The reason is because God is imaginary and religious delusion is hurting all of us.
Marshall Brain is most widely known as the founder of HowStuffWorks.com. He is also known as the creator of high-impact web sites like WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com and GodIsImaginary.com as well as the GIIVideo Youtube channel.
Animated map shows how religion spread around the world
The Future of World Religion (in 2050)
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