27 September, 2005

Voodoo God Killers

Much is being made, and will be made of this article in the coming weeks. I first heard about it at another site and then read more detail at TV On The Fritz.

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 world.

“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 original study, authored by Gregory S. Paul further conforms to that author's preconceptions. Paul is a noted expert on paleontology, and is available for speaking engagements to refute young-earth creationists. He is also noted for authoring such works as "The Great Scandal: Christianity Role in the Rise of the Nazi Scandal”, Free Inquiry, Vol. 23 No. 4, Pg. 22

Needless to say, when it comes to Christianity, Paul is --while ironically named--not necessarily its biggest fan. He goes to great length in this article to show that religion as it stands in enmity with evolution is a negative societal factor.

Yet he himself admits
This is not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health

Good thing, too. There are too many causal factors within any society to draw a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument such as the one Paul flirts with in this document. (Rejection of secular humanism gives your kids gonorrhea!!!) Without any pretense toward a true controlled study there is no way to reconcile the pudding of data points Paul provides into any cohesive conclusion.

Why do I care? Because this is the kind of thing that walks and quacks like the duck of science and gets everyone repeating snatches of it as fact. The London Times portrays this as a scientific study which reaches a conclusion. To the average reader it appears as though this is real science, conducted according to the scientific method and reaching a definitively provable conclusion. In truth this is one man working from a bias (as I indeed would be were I to write such a paper) to publish a collection of data points from which he has drawn a decidedly biased conclusion. He has not subjected this information to the rigorous standards of scientific method. Therefore it is as much to be taken on faith as anything in the Bible.

Secular Humanism is its own religion. They just tend to use bigger words and elevate themselves to the position of god.


At 11:10 PM, September 27, 2005, Blogger HUCK said...

The problems with making correlations like this between religion and higher rates in homicide, etc., is there is always a natural tendancy to assume a cause and effect relationship between the 2 spikes.

What if, instead, the correlation is due to a shared parallel relationship? What if, within religious societies, due to an elevated focus via the reflective system of morality, for which religion provides; then crime and bad behavior are simply more regularly reported?

There are many other, and just as plausible, reasons for this correlation.

...and yeah he concedes that this may be the case, that the correlation may not share a cause and effect relationship. But then why mention the study at all.

So, guess what? Believe it or not. I agree with you on this one. This is bad science, shaped and used to benefit a personal agenda. See "The Bell Curve" for a similar example of bad science in print.

However, you shouldn't think, that just because I disagree with his "findings", I am consequently affirming that a nonreligious society wouldn't fare any morally better or worse than a religious one.

I don't agree with your last paragraph. So, there.

At 10:35 AM, October 01, 2005, Blogger Teofilo Maxim said...

I am so with you on this one.

Perhaps surprisingly, my first concern about this article and the paper it refers to is its characterization of the US as a Christian nation. George Bush likes to thump on his book, but it isn't a Bible.

Jesus was quite specific in that God did not discriminate and that the advantaged had a responsibility to care for the lest fortunate. The current US administration that wears its "faith" on it's sleeve has repeatedly cut aid to the nation's poor and refusing to protect its citizens from routine discrimination. So farcical is George W. Bush's story of faith that he claims that his policies are based on a serious study of the Acts of the Apostles.

But the early Christian church described in the Acts was a harshly-enforced commune. Members were not permitted to retain private property, every they owned was to be sold and all the proceeds given to the church. Members who attempted to withold private property from the collective were confronted and fell down dead immediately (Acts 5:1-11)

"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.....There was not a needy man among them for as many who were possessors of land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.... distribution was made to each as any had need" Acts 4:34-35

So an administration based on the book of Acts could hardly decimate the nation's safety net, bear false witness about WMDs, march into war on false pretenses....

My point is that, there is a difference between calling yourself Christian and being Christian!

Now I would be interested in seeing a study on the effect of hypocrisy in leadership on homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality. I'd be interested in seeing a study on the effects of an administration with such conservative sexual values on STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion. Christians are fond of asking: what would Jesus do? I see him flipping over a lot of tables in the legislature!

Remember that Jesus was out there in the streets, embracing the marginalized, the prostitutes and addicts and shunning the religious leaders who didn't want to get their hands dirty.

"Woe to you ....hypocrites! for you tithe the dill and cummin, but you neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith" Matthew 23:23

There are good Christians out there, really! They just tend to draw less attention to themselves than the hypocrites.


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