06 December 2005

Religion takes it on the chin

Coming on the heels of Gregory Paul's paper suggesting that we can all get along just fine without religion (I wrote about it a few weeks back) is an even more detailed exploration of the value of a secular society.

Phil Zuckerman, an assistant professor of sociology at California's Pitzer College, contributes a chapter on "Atheism: Rates and Patterns Worldwide" to a forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin. The chapter
assembles and analyzes current data on rates and patterns of non-belief in God worldwide, country by country. It also correlates levels of non-belief in various countries with indicators of societal health, such as literacy rates, infant mortality rates, gender equality, life expectancy, homicide rates, and per capita income.
The conclusion is very much in line with Paul's -- the less religious the population, the better off the people are. And just for good measure, Zuckerman also claims, though less convincingly, that his results "render any suggestion that theism is innate or neurologically based untenable." So much for the god gene.

Paul, a self-taught paleontologist and illustrator with no formal training in sociology, says he wrote his paper largely to convince real sociologists to get off their behinds and do what they should have done long ago: carry out systematic and comprehensive tests of the widely held assumption that religion is a force for good.

Zuckerman, it would seem, rose to the challenge. And defending dogma just got a whole lot harder.

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