WARNING! Religion may cause…
Jan 30, 2008
...hypocrisy; cognitive dissonance; higher rates of STD infection,
teen pregnancy, abortion, and poverty; mass societal dysfunction; early
mortality; homicide; and, in rare cases, delusions and psychosis. Is
Living Under the Influence (of religion) less dangerous than Driving
Under the Influence?
In the news this week, we have the case of Eunice Spry,
a British woman who systematically tortured her adopted and foster
children because of her religious convictions. She did pleasant things
like forcing the children to eat their own vomit for being greedy, and
making a child with nighttime enuresis (bed-wetting) at the age of 4
wear a sign reminding everybody that she was an evil attention-seeker.
It doesn't stop there, either. She also prevented a teenaged girl who
was injured in a car accident and temporarily confined to a wheelchair
from walking in order to collect more compensation money, despite the
fact that the prognosis was she would regain ability to walk within 6
months. After moving out, they children submitted to medical
examinations which showed evidence of internal scarring due to Eunice's
punishment of choice-forcing the children to vomit and then eat it.
If you aren't sick by now, you should be. Obviously, this woman's
problems extended beyond her religious beliefs, but her absolutely
inhumane treatment of those children was done under the guise of
punishing them for what would seem to be the seven deadly sins. All she
would need to do is chop somebody's pregnant wife's head off and send
it to them and we could make a movie. Oh, wait, somebody already did.
In my opinion, crimes like these should be a more serious offense than
murder. Going Andrea Yates on them would have been merciful. I almost
wish that a hell existed so she could go there.
Don't go away yet, there's more. A Washington, D.C. woman, Banita Jacks,
sat in her home for over two weeks with the decomposing bodies of her 4
daughters who were apparently "possessed." Now tell me: Where would she
get this idea of demon possession if it hadn't been planted in her mind
by religion? I realize that before mental illnesses were understood,
demon possession was a common diagnosis, but we're living in the 21st
century here, people. That concept would not have survived the
Enlightenment if it wasn't for the eternally ubiquitous presence of
that festering boil we refer to as religion.
I know the next argument that you're going to make, too. "Well, she
was insane, so she would have done something horrible anyway." How do
you know that? How do you know that she would have had any concept of a
"demon" if it wasn't placed there? The bible clearly states that this
is a war not of flesh and bones, but of spirits and the forces of good
and evil. One is to arm themselves for battle and prepare to deflect
the attacks of satan and his minions. People still believe in this
stuff! Does anybody get this? The Pope is calling for mass exorcisms,
and some evangelical christians believe that sicknesses are caused by
satan and that you can "cast them out in Jesus' name." It is a travesty
that the more obsequious among us have bought the propaganda hook,
line, and sinker. Anybody who cannot see the correlation here is either
blind or indifferent and will allow these things to continue to happen.
All because we can't talk about religion like that-it's just not nice.
Obviously, the vast majority of religious people do not commit these
kinds of crimes, but there is an overwhelming amount of violence
perpetrated upon people that is religiously motivated. I've already
pointed out the child abuse that occurs in the name of religion, and some christian parenting sites teach you how to "switch" your children with PVC tubing from the age of 9 months. Incidentally, a devotee of theirs was charged with first-degree murder
when she wrapped her 4 year old son tightly in blankets because he kept
getting out of bed and he suffocated to death.All because god is a god
of order, not chaos, and you must maintain order in your home. Talk
about fragile egos on these people who won't be manipulated by the
cries of a hungry newborn baby.
I said this in my first post on this topic, and obviously I need to
repeat myself for the either dense or dishonest critics, but even if
religion only exploits existing mental illnesses, should we not give
people one less reason to kill or harm others? Imagine a scenario in
which small groups of racist people are still terrorizing anybody with
darker skin than them, but since the vast majority of white people
don't act that way, we just shouldn't address it.
In all honesty, the reason that most religious people do not act
like the Phelps family is because they are nominal (insert religion
here) only. A study done by the Barna Group,
a christian research firm, showed that many young Americans see
christians as hypocritical, and that they really are hypocrites. They
surveyed 1003 adults on 20 "lifestyle elements," including things such
as altruism, sexual behavior, and substance abuse. The results: on 15
of the 20 behaviors, evangelical christians were indistinguishable from
us heathens, and the areas in which they do differ (porn consumption,
cursing in public, playing the lottery, and music piracy), the
difference is minor (One-third of heathens vs. one-quarter of
christians) except for the music piracy, in which there is a 7%
difference. That is not likely because of the commandment to not steal,
but rather that resisting the urge to download music is much easier
than resisting the urge to have sex. If that's not causing cognitive
dissonance, I don't know what will.
On a larger scale, we have three studies on the impact of religion
on society, and neither of them is going to vindicate religion. The
first was published in the Journal of Religion and Society and authored by Gregory Paul, a social scientist. He concluded that:
"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
"The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."
"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." (TimesOnline.co.uk)
The next was a Pew global survey
that graphed the correlation between religiosity and wealth. Although
the U.S. was an outlier, there was still an inverse statistical
correlation between rates of religious belief and wealth. Attached to that article
was a site you can use to determine rates of religiosity in different
areas of the US and the corresponding population data. (It is slightly
dated with 2000 as the year the data was collected.) There is a similar
correlation in the US among different areas as there is among countries
worldwide. Below are the two graphs plotting the data.
The third and final study is perhaps the most comprehensive. Phil Zuckerman
analyzed levels of organic (not coercive) atheism and how the countries
scored on the "Human Development Index," which rates countries on
various indicators of societal health such as homicide rates, gender
equality, poverty, literacy, and infant mortality. Not surprisingly,
higher levels of atheism have a positive correlation to better levels
of societal health as measured by these statistics. The top 25
countries all have very high levels of non-believers with the exception
of Ireland. There was an increase in suicide rates among some of the
atheistic countries, but the author notes that all of those countries
were formerly parts of the USSR and are still suffering from the
effects of that.
(nb: The link to the study itself is gone, but it is available in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism)
So, due to the insistence of numerous people, I have been working
on a more official thesis on theism as a mind disorder, but getting the
actual studies often requires expensive memberships or trips to the
library. Don't worry-it's coming. Even if you disagree on that point, I
think that there's enough data here to support the claim that religion
has deleterious effects on society. One should use caution while using
religion until one is certain of its effects.