Hey Dr. Z, I think you miss the boat in so many ways. Yes I’m sure you are just a humble socail scientist trying to make a sound contribution to the Western tradition. But, I was a sociology major. I got out of sociology because of their anti-religoius number crunching attitude. I studied soc of religion with Ansen Schupe as an undergraduate. He was not what I would call “anti-religious.” I learned more from him than from anyone in my undergraduate days.Dear Metarock — thanks for your message.
But miss the boat in several ways:
(1) you are not distinguishing between belief and participation. When your informants say “I believe in something” that does not make them atheists it doe snot make them anti-religious. It does not mean they are without God. God does not have to be a big man in the sky.
(2) a vast plethora of data demontrates the innate nature of religious belief. Just showing a culture where the religious participation is different doesn’t mean you have proven that that society is “without God.”
(3) the basic values that laid the foundation for the welfare state were handed down by the Christian past. The institution of the church had little to do with making the welfare state, Christianity as a belief system and system of values may have had a lot to do with it in terms clearing he way.
(4) I’ve seen a lot of evidence for a new alternative view of religion in Scandinavia similar or analogs to the “new religions” of Japan. You are not hip to this trend at all.
(5) There is a vast body of data demonstrated the innate nature of religion and its’ value for society
340 (at least) studies on mystical experince and the cross culturally verified M scale makes these empirical.
about 400 studies on Juvenile crime and religion that show religious belief and participation make for less of it.
all together given studies on religion and health, religious experince a psychosocial value and social ills, there are probably about 2000 studies that show the value of religion. They all over Pub med. They are scholarly, empirical, not hard to find. I”m not even counting those bogus prayer studies or bogus new age like healing at a distance stuff.
You are just scratching the surface. you are very far from proving your thesis.
Let me briefly try to respond.
1) I agree. But BOTH participation and belief are low in DK and SE. I totally that when someone says that they believe in “something” they are not necessarily an atheist. But when people said this to me, I pushed them to explain and discuss this “something” — they had little or nothing to say. I asked them how important this “something” was to them — generally they said not at all — just if pushed they think there may be “something” out there. You can call this theism or spirituality if you like, but it is VERY WEAK — which was my point.
But being "weak" is not important, because they are also weak in atheism as well. That is not a news story, "Northern Europe is weak in Christian belief" so what? you can hardly conclude that their social welfare state is based upon being weak in Christianity. You are still not accounting for the past when it was strong and that strength built the progressive state they live in. What they are strong in today is not atheism but secularization, there's a big difference.
2) If religious belief is “innate” (which by that I assume you mean in-born, biological, or natural), then why are there about 500 or 700 million people that are non-believers? The latest Harris poll shows that nearly 20% of Americans are atheist or agnostic. A recent Barna poll puts it is 9% — either way, we’re talking millions and millions of people. What happened to their “innate” religious belief? How do you explain the low levels of religiosity in DK and SE or Estonia — or heck, among Jews? The whole “religion is innate” theory is hard to square with millions and millions and millions of non-believers.That is not true. 20% is way over inflated and ridiculous. You are misquoting Barna, you are not using Gallop and you are ignoring the most important Pew study which is the most elaborate and best representative study every done on the religious landscape in America (2007) and it found 1.6% were atheists! you are falling for the media short hand which lumps in all kinds of people such as those who believe in God but don't like religion, agnostics, witches and other kinds of religions, you are accepting them all as "atheist." Every time you find anything over 3% for atheism check the stats to see and every time you find they are including believers in God who don't like organized religion.
3) If this is true, then why are there no excellent welfare states in heavily Christian lands such as Latin America or Africa or the USA? I don’t disagree that Christian values had something to do with the establishment of the welfare state — but so what? What is your point? My point is this: isn’t it interesting that where religious belief is the weakest, society is the most healthy, and where religious belief is strongest, society is a mess. How do you explain this fact?
That doesn't even disprove innate religious belief. No one says that religious belief can't conform itself to other kinds of institutions. Atheists use scinece as an er zots religion. Science functions ni atheist metempsychosis as religion does in Christian metaphysics. The state functioned in communist metaphysics as God does in Christian metaphysics.
4) By all means, do share. Are you referring to the article by Stark, Hamberg, and Miller? I have plenty of critiques of that…
No. I am basing the innateness of religion on the work by Newberg on Brain reaction to prayer and medication. There is strong evdience for some genetic base to religion: it may be Spandrels it doesn't have to be a gene. But there is strong evidence and the assumption in Nuero psychology is now that there is a genetic base or some form of brain chemistry that is linked to innate religious ideas.
5) Then why are the most religious states in the USA (measured both by belief AND participation) the most messed up (highest murder rates, poverty rates, etc)? Why are the most religious nations in the world the most messed up? Why does the USA have the highest murder rate compared to much more secular nations? Hm…I just don’t understand how you can argue this…
If you can't understand why that's argument from sign and way too simplistic correlation you aer not much of a social scientist. I don't know any sociologist, (yes I do know sociologists it was my major and I completed it) that would make such a simplistic correlation and draw causal conclusions from it. That's so simplistic when the obvious variables of poverty and education you can link to anything.
6) I don’t deny that religion has positive social or psychological benefits. But these befits probably come from the good that comes from being part of a caring community — the benefits of social capital, social support, etc. — I am sure that they don’t come from the precious blood of Jesus…
That's where you are demonstrably wrong! The bleief itself is credited with the effects. It probably has something do with the social network but not much. It is demonstrably not the result of just having a good network because no study comparing nets works demonstrates hat secular networks are better. All studies demonstate that the religious networks is better.
Your last little quip betrays your lack of objective analysis, your ideological motivations.
Religious Experience Studies
Dr. Z then adds this:
Metarock — also, I am curious: do you really think that all people, all cultures, and all countries are somehow religious in equal measure? If yes, you will have to ignore a shit-load of data that says otherwise, and if no, then why is it that the least religious people/nations tend to be doing quite well, while the most religious people/nations tend to be the worst off (at least when considering standard sociological measures like poverty, homicide, education, life expectancy, etc.)….granted, suicide tends to be lower among the religious (and the poor), but this is an exception that merely proves the larger rule…and the research that I am familiar with concerning mental health suggests that it is the MODERATELY religious that report better health than the secular AND the strongly religious — again, I would explain this being a result of social support and being part of a loving community, not innate theism, per se…
Your reading of those stats is ideologically motivated and not based upon very keen analysis. Most of this is explained in my comments above. But, the appraise "least religious" is misleading because its a subjective measure. You are not based upon actual beliefs but upon participation in somethings of social institutional nature while ignoring others. Like the Sweds don't to church as much as Americans but 80s are members. You can't account for the particularization in Japan. you and Paul used to use (or least he did) Japan as an "atheist country" but in terms particularization in festivals such Bonn it's still very religious.
The health thing you are totally out of the loop on. A huge number of studies demonstrate religious particularization is a key factor in heath, not moderate but high participation it's a siding scale. That research is too diverse to just lump it all into one category or draw short hand conclusions from one liners. I'm not impressed with your off the cuff short one liner analysis that doesn't dig behind the stats.