A world map showing the percentage of people in each country who are irreligious.

  1. Are PZ Myers and other Pharyngulites right to fight religion?
  2. Does religion harm society?

See below.

Can decline in religious belief improve society?[edit | edit source]

A map of world happiness, based on the Satisfaction with Life Index, by Adrian G. White.

Secular nations like Sweden and Denmark are happier than the United States which is overall more religious. Further the United States Bible Belt suffers from many social problems that are less severe in more liberal and more secular parts of the United States. So the answer could be yes. [1] [2]

Getting scientific proof in the social sciences is generally much harder than it is in the physical sciences so more careful analysis is needed before we can say anything definitive. Preliminary research suggests that the worse religions may actually be bad for society. [3]

United States of America[edit | edit source]

For one thing social problems in the US Bible Belt date back to the Civil War in the 19th Century and to the times of slavery before that. Sorting out how far the poisonous Christian fundamentalism is a cause of social problems and how far social problems cause Christian fundamentalism would require extensive research. If any American graduates reading this are considering doing a PhD you could discuss this project with your supervisor. Intuitively the following looks likely.

  1. Social problems exacerbate Christian fundamentalism in the US Bible Belt.
  2. Christian fundamentalism exacerbates social problems in the US Bible Belt.

External links[edit | edit source]

France and the USA compared[edit | edit source]

In France there is a principle of laïcité which is hard to define but seems to mean that the state is separate from religion. Theoretically this applies in the USA as well but religion was taught there till the Madalyn Murray O'Hair brought a defining court case. Intelligent Design is taught in many US states and there are continual complaints about unconstitutional religious activity in US public schools. By contrast in France laïcité is respected and French public schools (state schools in UK English) teach school students to evaluate other cultural belief systems as well as their own. [4]

Footnotes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Note many happy nations are secular but Saudi Arabia is also fairly happy, the Saudis rank 30 in the list Satisfaction with Life Index though that is well below Denmark. Clearly other factors are involved as well as religious belief. (Saudi Arabia despite being oppressive has a welfare state at least for its citizens.
    1. Incidentally are Saudi people really happy?
    2. Could it be that under an oppressive regime people are afraid to criticise their government and their Islamic society even indirectly by saying they are dissatisfied with their lives?
  2. This article is about secularism rather than atheism because in practise agnostics freethinkers generally, even deists are likely to frame government in secular terms and follow political ideologies that are similar to what atheists choose.
  3. Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies This long document doesn't prove conclusively that religion worsens society but suggests religion might be harmful.
  4. What is French "Laïcité" (laicity)?

The links below deal with Scandinavia, I plan to write about that later’’

External links[edit | edit source]

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