While I see the point you are trying to make, I believe it is wrong.
The problem is you have to account for many, many factors when dealing with statistics of crime and violence comparisons which I believe you did not.
Though you slightly addressed this, one cannot simply compare one country against another and say they are safer and have less religious people while this country has more religious people and is less safe, ergo religion does not make you safer. What kind of culture does each country have? How much is the expression of violence a primary factor in each country's entertainment venues (movies, television, literature, etc)? What kind of gun control laws does each country have? And most importantly, what kind of system is in place in each country for dealing with mental illness?
These are extremely important factors to consider when making a claim such as religion does not make a country safer, and we cannot simply view statistics in a vacuum. If we did, we could say that since Russia is more of an atheistic country than the United States and consumes more alcohol than the United States, then people in countries with religion are less likely to drink alcohol. Yet alcohol-related diseases are one of the top causes of death in America.
We can apply the same logic to statistics of state religiosity, but let's take it one step further. What are the socioeconomic factors of each state in the comparison? (citations available upon request for the next few statistics)
Mississippi is the state with the lowest median household income, the fifth worst in terms of access to items for basic well-being, and is the most religious state. Yet Mississippi is the second-worst state as far as prison incarceration.
Now take a look at Maine, the least religious and safest place in the Union that has a higher median household income, smallest prison population, and more access to items for basic well-being.
What can we say using these statistics? That religion does not guarantee safety, or it does not guarantee economic prosperity?
Now, you conceded that maybe the offenders of the various crime statistics weren't truly religious, and that the absence of religion doesn't necessarily equate with a safer society.
I do take issue, however, with your stance that "There is simply no compelling evidence that the absence of religion within a society or within a person leads to a moral vacuum," and therefore religion, or more specifically Christianity since no other religions were mentioned in the article, does not make a society safer.
In 1962 and 1963, prayer was taken out of schools.
Since 1963 violent crime has increased 544%.
For 15 years before 1963 pregnancies in girls ages 15 through 19 years had been no more than 15 per thousand After 1963 pregnancies increased 187% in the next 15 years.
For younger girls, ages 10 to 14 years, pregnancies since 1963 are up 553%.
Before 1963 sexually transmitted diseases among students were 400 per 100,000. Since 1963, they were up 226% in the next 12 years.
Before 1963 divorce rates had been declining for 15 years. After 1963 divorces increased 300% each year for the next 15 years.
So you see, there are many meaningful statistics that the absence of religion in society can lead to a moral vacuum. Now, please note, when I say "religion," I mean a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ, not simply sitting in a church once a week. One can no more sit in a church and by default have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ than one can sit in a McDonald's and be a hamburger by default.
I do want to note and concede the sad fact of the Pew Foundation survey that indicated the majority of church-goers supported torture in terrorist interrogations. If I remember the survey correctly, it was in the few years post 9/11. Regardless of the timing, it is still a very sad statement, one which I can only blame on the declination of true Christian values being taught in churches, but that is another subject and argument entirely.
Once America wholly turned its back on God, the downhill slide began. Yet it is not to late to turn back towards Him and heal the wounds in our nation. You were right on one account, "simply clinging to our beliefs" will indeed not help us. We need to do more than cling. We need to put them into deeds and actions that reflect Jesus Christ to our fellow men. And if all the "Christians" in the Union did that, our country would be safer.
I won't repeat all the points I make in the post but the problem with your reasoning is there just is no evidence that the people in our country who are flat out denying God and turning their back on Christianity are in any way less moral or more prone to criminality. So if "true Christianity" is the key, why are these people doing pretty well without it? As you point out, there are lots of variables at play when we look at the broader sociological level of analysis. So the best way to look at this issue is to look at the individual level. American atheists and secular folks in comparable democratic and educated societies simply are not more inclined to be violent. So clearly a lack of a faith is not making these people social deviants. They are doing fine without it. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
Hey Clay, thanks for the reply.
The whole point of Christianity is the revelation that we need God in our lives. This is far easier to see for someone in a lower standard of living than in a higher one, because the lower person simply does not have. Why would the person with everything need to turn to God?
Unfortunately, we cannot simply look at this issue in an individual light/basis (though I realize this website is called Psychology today and not Sociology today). I showed with the 1963 statistics that society as a whole has become less moral and more violent since the absence of God in schools, which shows there is indeed an adverse effect to denying God and turning away from Christianity on society as well as individuals.
There are so many factors, again, we can't just look at this on a case by case basis. We look at Mississippi and see it has both the most religiosity and the highest crime rate in the Union. But again, it also has the lowest standard of living. If we raised the standard of living, would crime decrease? Would religiosity? If we took out all the religious people and replaced them with atheists in the exact same standard of living, would crime go down? How much worse would things be without faith? Those are questions we simply cannot answer.
We also cannot compare other countries, as even in democratic foreign countries, the culture is very different from our own and leads to entirely different mindsets.
A lack of faith may not make someone a social deviant, but having faith does not make you one, either. And honestly, can you tell me that nothing would change if everyone really started living by the golden rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself?"
The problems with your reasoning are that you're trying to compare humanity in a vacuum devoid of the outside influences that permeate each society, and that while you look at the evidence and say religious people tend to be more violent and things aren't safer, the evidence can just as easily point towards people need religion more and cling to religion more in high crime and low standard of living areas.
Now, you would probably ask why hasn't people clinging to God made things better? My reply is who is to say that it hasn't? Again, what would things be like without Christians in those areas?
Again, thanks for replying previously and for the discussion.
You made a point that the argument goes both ways but why Christianity? Why not Islam or Buddhism? It's true that statistics can be picked to make religiosity look good or bad but you haven't provided any evidence for choosing Christianity instead of Islam or Judaism or any other religion. Would there be any difference in violence in a community if we replaced all the Christians with Muslims?
Well, without prayer, you're automatically closing to door to what we, for lack of a better work, call divine intervention in certain stressful/medical situations.
These situations tend to be rare, but it is quite useful, provided that responses/action is/are provided.
If you don't ask for aid, you won't get aid, that's for sure. No harm in asking.
I don't really have the faintest idea as to when the spiritual actors in question decide to respond. It's not as though they ever tell you much beyond what you actually need to know. I know of three times this has happened, and so far it's been a once in a lifetime experience for all three people, including me.
Normally, the response/action provided in crisis-type situations, whether medical or vocational.
And yes, if it never happened to you, you're never going to believe it happens.
So, my point is that prayer can actually be responded to, should the agents in a position to respond choose to respond.
So, the people who are "flat out denying God and turning their back on Christianity" are simply removing a potentially very helpful tool from their toolkit for no good reason.
That they never tried or don't have experience with prayer.
Maybe they did (several times or over a lifetime) and found out that your solution(prayer) doesn't work for them, so they find other, more useful tools in the toolbox.
What works for you won't work for others. What works for others won't work for you.
You aren't automatically closing a door to so called solutions - you are picking a better solution for your own. Whether that is prayer or (fill in blank here).
Clay Routledge fails to cite where he's drawing these numbers from. There were many good points made in regards to the subject matter, I don't believe the numbers can be substantiated. For instance, to assert that in a prison or jail holding 1000 people only 2 are atheist. Just ask any guard anywhere and you'll be very likely to have a higher percentage than those on the outside. If there was faulty research it's due to the entry questions. When asked what religion one is, the atheist will often respond with Protestant or Catholic especially if they once attended. Oftentimes they'll outright lie.
This was the great error In Mike Lipkas Pew Research on the education of atheist and believers. Atheist have a very high percentage of Caucasians. All major research shows that Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to attend or graduate from Collage. They also score much lower than their (Believing) Caucasian counterparts.
Clay Routledge, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University.
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