Unintended consequences…

…or, what if the things you believe are fundamental to keeping your society together are in some way linked to the negative effects that you see around you?

That might be the sort of question you ask after reading a study published in the Journal of Religion & Society which suggests that a high level of religious belief may harm a society.

As reported in the Times, the study, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies looks at data across the first world Western democracies, and examines both the level of overt belief in God / disbelief in evolution and the occurrence of various societal measures such as homicides, early mortality, STDs, teenage pregancy and abortion. The paper finds strong correlations between the general level of religiosity in a society and high levels of these negative measures.

The author is clear that this is an initial study of the correlation between data sets, and does not hypothesise a causal link, however he does include a call to arms for social sicences to examine these issues more closely.

Ironically, the scientific method, which to-date has been shown to be the most effective way of exploring links between events “out there” and putative causes is, I suspect, likely to be the last thing that members of a highly religious society will turn to.

Print version of paper [PDF]

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My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change