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> Is religiosity beneficial in affluent first world nations?
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post Oct 03, 2009, 11:35 AM
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Supreme God

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I think that the article below has a fatal flaw. It fails to acknowledge that actual belief might remain although visible participation in religion diminishes. And, if the countries in Europe are surveyed, the proportion of believers and participators is still very significant. Thus the throw away statement concerning removal of the US from the equation is misleading. How many times have we heard this kind of statement - I don't have time to go to church nowadays, but I do believe in god and worship in my own way?

What do you think?


Is religiosity beneficial in affluent first world nations?
Contact: Gregory Paul
Tel: +01 410-243-0316

In recent decades, scholars have discussed the evolutionary origins of religious beliefs. Some hold that religious beliefs confer benefits to individuals' abilities to cope with their life experiences; others propose that religious beliefs and identities facilitated the successful survival of human groups and their competition with other groups for land and other scarce resources.

As some nations become increasingly secular, one may wonder what role religious beliefs play for those living in technologically advanced societies. Advocates for religious systems often argue that these beliefs are instrumental in providing moral foundation necessary for a healthy, cohesive society - a view shared by Benjamin Franklin and Dostoyevsky.

In a follow up to his 2005 paper, Gregory Paul argues that high religiosity is not universal to human populations, and it is actually inversely related to a wide range of socio-economic indicators representing the health of modern democracies. Paul holds that once a nation's population becomes prosperous and secure, for example through economic security and universal health care, much of the population looses interest in seeking the aid and protection of supernatural entities. This effect appears to be so consistent that it may prevent nations from being highly religious while enjoying good internal socioeconomic conditions.

National level statistics suggest that strong mass religiosity is invariably associated with high levels of stress and anxiety, which are created by impoverishment, inequality, or economic security, related to high levels of societal dysfunction. These relationships are largely consistent when the United States, an outlier amongst advanced democracies in the high level of both religious belief and social decay, is removed from the comparison.

The belief held by some scholars that strong religious belief is the universal human condition deeply rooted in our psyches, may be false. Also contradicted is the hypothesis that evolutionary selective forces have played the leading role in determining the popularity of religion. Environmental conditions appear to exert great influence on the degree to which religious beliefs are held. The popularity of religious belief may be a reflection of a psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety resulting from adverse social and economic environments.

Because creationism can be popular only when religion is widespread, extensive disbelief of evolutionary science is also associated with the dysfunctional societal environment, which encourages the conservative, scriptural based theism that favors special creation. Large scale secularization is the only method proven to suppress creationist opinion to well below majority status.

The findings also have strong implications for consequential political debates, such as the current tussles amongst politicians and interest groups over health care reform in the United States. This may be seen as part of a larger ideological battle between those advocating for progressive government policies leveling health and economic outcomes and social conservatives who oppose the secularization associated with such outcomes.

The study, The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions, appears in the current issue of Evolutionary Psychology and is accessible at:
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