RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards
high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according
to research published today. According
to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for
a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.
The study counters the view of believers that religion is
necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy
It compares the social peformance of relatively secular
countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in
a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative
evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil,
believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.
Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold
that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps
to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity
and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been
described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the
devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.
The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society,
a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their
churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the
hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical
“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.
“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”
Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist,
used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and
other research bodies to reach his conclusions.
He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.
The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous
democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout
nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of
gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in
less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely
high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent
abortion rates, the study suggested.
Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the
social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the
USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious
nation than America.”
He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was
compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the
Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in
reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases
and abortion, he added.
Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of
Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of
different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to
social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the
poor societal performance of the Christian states,” he added.
He said that most Western nations would become more religious
only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence
of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would
not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline
in religious belief, Mr Paul said.
“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the
dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens
ardently believe in a moral creator.
“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”