Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Proof that Religiosity Impoverishes

What accounts for the staggering economic differences in rates of religiosity between nations? 

For instance, why do most nations in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia contain almost no people who are non-religious, while many European nations contain an abundance of the non-religious? 

There are various explanations (Zuckerman, 2004; Paul, 2002; Stark and Finke, 2000; Bruce, 1999).

1. Standards of Living - One leading theory comes from Norris and Inglehart (2004), who argue that in societies characterized by plentiful food distribution, excellent public healthcare, and widely accessible housing, religiosity wanes. 

Conversely, in societies where food and shelter are scarce and life is generally less secure, religiosity is very strong. 

Through an examination of current global statistics on religiosity as they relate to income distribution, economic inequality, welfare expenditures, and basic measurements of lifetime security (such as vulnerability to famines, natural disasters, etc.), Norris and Inglehart (2004) convincingly argue that despite numerous factors possibly relevant for explaining different rates of religiosity world-wide, “the levels of societal and individual security in any society seem to provide the most persuasive and parsimonious explanation” (p.109).

2. Political System - When recognizing that countries containing high percentages of the non- religious are among the healthiest and wealthiest nations on earth (Paul, 2004), we must distinguish between nations where the non-religious has been forced upon the society by dictators (“coercive secularism”) and nations wherein being non-religious has emerged on its own without governmental coercion (“organic secularism”). 

Nations marked by coercive secularism -- such as North Korea and former Soviet states -- are marked by all that comes with totalitarianism: poor economic development, censorship, corruption, depression, etc. However, nations marked by high levels of organic atheism – such as Sweden or the Netherlands -- are among the healthiest, wealthiest, best educated, and freest societies on earth.

3. Human Development Index - Consider the Human Development Report, commissioned by the United Nations Development Program. 

This report ranks 177 nations on a “Human Development Index,” measures societal health through a weighing of such indicators as life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rate, per capita income, and educational attainment. 

According to the 2004 Report, the five highest ranked nations in terms of total human development were Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands. All five of these countries are characterized by notably high degrees of organic secularism. 

Of the top 25 nations ranked on the “Human Development Index,” all but one (Ireland) are top- ranking non-religious nations, containing very higher percentages of organic secularism. 

Conversely, of those countries ranked at the bottom of the “Human Development Index” -- the bottom 50 -- all are countries lacking statistically significant percentages of secularism.

4. Mortality - Concerning the infant mortality rate (number of deaths per 1,000 live births), irreligious countries have the lowest rates, and religious countries have the highest. 

According to the CIA World Factbook (2004), the top 25 nations with the lowest infant mortality rates were all nations containing significantly high percentages of organic secularism. 

Conversely, the 75 bottom nations with the highest infant mortality rates were all nations without any statistically significant levels of organic secularism.

5. Poverty Levels - Concerning international poverty rates, the United Nations’ Report on the World Social Situation (2003) found that of the 40 poorest nations on earth, all but one (Vietnam) are highly religious nations with statistically minimal or insignificant levels of secularism.

6. Literacy - Concerning illiteracy rates, the same report found that of the 35 nations with the highest levels of youth illiteracy rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic secularism.

7. Gender Equality - Concerning gender equality, nations marked by high degrees of organic secularism are among the most egalitarian in the world, while highly religious nations are among the most oppressive. 

According to the 2004 Human Development Report’s “Gender Empowerment Measure,” the top ten nations with the highest degrees of gender equality are all strongly organic secularistic nations with significantly high percentages of the non-religious. 

Conversely, the bottom ten are all highly religious nations without any statistically significant percentages of secularists. 

According to Inglehart (2003), countries with the most female members of parliament tend to be countries characterized by high degrees of organic secularism (such as Sweden and Denmark) and countries with the fewest female members in parliament tend to be highly religious countries (such as Pakistan and Nigeria).

8. Secularization - In sum, loss of religiosity has occurred over the course of the 20th century in Canada, Australia, and various European countries (Davie, 2000), including Germany (Shand, 1998; Greeley, 2003), the United Kingdom (Bruce, 2001, 2002), the Netherlands (Grontenhuis and Scheepers, 2001), and Scandinavia (Bruce, 1999). However, secularization is quite limited to specific advanced industrialized nations (with relatively low birth rates), and has not occurred throughout much of the rest of the world.

In a collaboration with Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, professor of psychology, Helmuth Nyborg measured religiosity against IQ in 137 countries, and concluded that low IQ countries always had higher rates of religion.

" First, [intelligent] people have a brain based biological capacity for solving complex problems, and for acting rationally when confronted with fundamental questions about existence, human nature, underlying causes, or the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". Second, [unintelligent] people lack this protection and are therefore unfairly ordained to live in a pre-rational world based on poorly validated evidence and little accumulated insight. They accordingly often find themselves in cognitively, emotionally, or morally challenging situations and have to use plan B, that is, to call upon easily comprehensible religious authoritative guidance and to submit more or less uncritically to culturally given stereotyped rituals. Frustration with their life may also make them seek redemption or faith in an after life.

“High-IQ people are able to curb magical, supernatural thinking and tend to deal with the uncertainties of life on a rational-critical-empirical basis, and to become prosperous servants of society, whereas low-IQ people easily become trapped in religious magical thinking, in addition to achieving, earning and serving less well
." - research was done by a Danish professor of psychology, Helmuth Nyborg, University of Aarhus, Denmark.

" The ultimate causal level presumes that geographically separated peoples were subjected to different evolutionary pressures over extended time-periods. Those living under the hardest of evolutionary pressures, in cold or arctic areas, were gradually and over many generations selected for enhanced IQ (for details of the Climate Theory, see Lynn, 2006; Rushton, 2000). They had to replace ancient pre-rational supernatural beliefs with more effective rational approaches in order to survive under the harsh conditions given. People living in warm or tropical areas enjoyed in general more relaxed selective conditions, and low IQ individuals were not severely punished, as their survival was not seriously compromised by uncritical reference to ancient supernatural thinking, irrational beliefs in souls, invisible worlds, Gods, forces, angels, devils, hell, or holy spirits. A contemporary belief that supernatural forces control behavior, feelings and thinking is accordingly seen as a reminiscence of pre-historic animism and magical thinking."

Nyborg further argues, "High IQ individuals will gravitate towards atheism or science, will discard supernatural phenomena, and will learn fast and prosper.

"Average IQ individuals will find one of several moderate liberal denominations more to their taste, will display average learning, and will accordingly assume an intermediate socio-economic standing.

"Low IQ individuals will to submit to one of the many dogmatic denominations, will be slow learners, and will attain a low socio-economic status that accord with their limited cognitive complexity and closed mind.

"Variations in disbelief, denominational complexity, educability and income are accordingly expected to follow from essentially heritable IQ differences, and to manifest themselves as today's mainly biologically brain based religious class differences."

"Over 70 years of research on IQ and religiosity has shown a consistent pattern. IQ and religiosity are negatively correlated. No study to date has shown that religion enhances or improves intelligence, but almost all studies show that, on average, the higher the level of religiousity, the lower the IQ. This is not to say that all people who are religious are unintelligent, but that religion seems to suppress intelligence. IQ differences can be as much as 5 points or 1/2 of a standard deviation lower among highly religious groups. My own guess is that this difference is due to the inhibitions and suppression of curious and questioning behavior in religious followers. If questioning is prohibited from early childhood, it probably has a decided effect on development or critical thinking skills which are associated with higher intelligence.

"With respect to mental health, the picture is even more interesting. Nationally, the more religious a region is the higher the incidence of sexual abuse and child abuse. The best predictor of child abuse in a home is alcohol use BUT the second best predictor is religiosity of the parents. Finally, the best predictor of divorce in the US is religiosity. The highest level of divorce is among Baptists and similar groups. George Barna, a admittedly evangelical researcher, has reported consistently that divorce is highest among Baptists and fundamentalist evangelical groups and that divorce occurs most often after one or both spouses are “saved.” He also found that agnostics and atheists have among the lowest divorce rates.

"Yet another indicator might be the incidence of teen pregnancy which is positively related to religiosity. The least religious teens do not get pregnant as often and they also have a lower incidence of STD’s. Finally, all religious groups are represented in prison population about equal to their frequency in the general population with the big exception of atheists and the non-religious. This group is significantly under represented in the prison population


1. Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nations

2. Wealth and Religiosity

3. More Poverty = More Religiosity

4. Phil Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns

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