Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nations under gods

One of the main arguments among far-right religionists (of any religious sub-belief, actually) is that they’re trying to protect people from the “wrath” of their god should their country fail to heed their personal prescription for rectitude. The consequence for failing to adopt their demanded righteousness is, at best, being forced to live in a dismal place or, at worst, to experience complete misery.

But as Phil Zuckerman points out at the Huffington Post, this simply isn’t true.

If you look at countries that are mostly secular and compare them with countries that are the most religious, you find that the secular states are more successful, have a higher standard of living and better social conditions (such as lower crime rate, better health, lower infant mortality and/or longer life) than do religious states.

Zuckerman points to Scandinavia in particular, among the first nations in the world to legalise abortion and same-sex marriages, and also with among the lowest church attendance levels. If far-right christianists were correct, these nations should be basket cases. Instead, “they lead the world on nearly all indicators of societal well-being.” Perhaps the real reason that Republicans are so condemning and dismissive of Scandinavian nations is that if people knew the truth about them, they’d realise they don’t need religion to be happy or have a good way of life.

What about the other side, religious countries? Zuckerman: “When we look at the most religious nations in the world—especially those that severely condemn homosexuality, such as Iran, Angola, and Mauritania—we see extreme poverty, high violent crime rates, oppression of women, dictatorship, warfare, corruption, etc.” Obviously being a religious country doesn’t make it a successful country, or one in which it’s good to live.

An apparent anomaly in this are communist dictatorships which, while being officially atheist, are also every bit as bleak as religious states. The lesson we can draw from all this evidence is that democratic countries that are secular are the best places to live, while authoritarian countries of any kind are the worst. As Zuckerman puts it:

There is no question that atheism coupled with totalitarianism is a veritable recipe for societal disaster. But as for democracies that forgo God—societies in which secularism is not forced upon a captive citizenry by dictators, but emerges organically and freely over several generations—the overall international pattern is unmistakable. It is the more godless democracies—and especially those that allow for gays and lesbians to wed—that are faring the best, while it is the more God-worshipping and homosexual-condemning nations that are faring the worst.

Amen to that.

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