Sunday, July 29, 2007
Gregory Paul, a noted paleontologist, dabbled a bit in religion as well. He posited a theory that the more a nation believes in God, the worse off they were when it came to social ills such as homicide, crime, and high rates of unwanted pregnancies.
There does appear to be a relationship. Paul compared 18 western nations andreligiosity did correlate with the quality of life in nations. He notes that the nation in Europe with the highest level of religiosity, Portugal, looks more like the United States when it comes to crime statistics than the rest of Europe.
Gary Jensen of Vanderbilt University was somewhat critical of the study, and further refined the data. Belief in God does appear to somewhat match with levels of crime, murder and other negative behaviors and outcomes, but more importantly is belief in dualism. If you believe in God and heaven/the devil and hell your country is going to have crime numbers off the charts.
People who are passionate about religion and believe in the dualism of "good and evil" with little in the way of a gray area can believe that the two choices during a conflict are to fight or flee.
It would be interesting to study how social safety structures play into the religious fervor as well. Does the belief in an afterlife of just heaven, or a dualistic belief in hell influence how those who are poor, mentally ill, needing health coverage are treated by a society?
Those in the United States who want a social safety net should be more interested in denying Satan than denying God if they want to see positive change. Is it a coincidence that this dualistic fervor exists in a country with a dualistic political set up with both sides often thinking their side is right and the other is evil?
In light of half of Republicans being in favor of Universal Health Coverage while nearly all Republicans in congress being opposed, perhaps this is not so far fetched a theory to be tested. Dualism doesn't work very well.
If we want radically different outcomes, our radically black & white vision of the world needs to be dismantled.