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J Myers

Sam Harris frequently raises this point in his writings and debates; nice to hear some excerpts directly from the author of such a study.

I'm interested in a bit from the final quotation above: "From Muslim fundamentalists in Iran to Christian fundamentalists in Indiana, the argument is loudly trumpeted that belief in God is “good for society” -- an ultimate panacea -- while rejection of the belief in God is bad for society." Do theists truly argue for belief in God on utilitarian grounds? Even if it were possible to simply choose your beliefs, if a utilitarian argument carries any weight,, wouldn't it make more sense to develop an alternative untrue-but-useful belief system that everyone could sign up to which would be much less divisive and destructive than extant religions?


There are several ways to combine the results, we can say that Norway, [for example] enjoys more of the good life than a religious country would, not because of the virtues of atheism, but rather the religious country enjoys less of the good life because of its religion. In other words, atheism doesn’t endow its adherents with a better life, it simply doesn’t impede it with nonsensical dogma the good life available to everyone.


Of course, I doubt they ran the numbers using the fundamentalist's calculations, where premarital sex and especially homosexuality *equal* (rather than cause) societal disintigration.

Greta Christina

That's actually an interesting point, Brandon. One of their measures of social health and well-being was, in fact, gender equality -- something that many religious fundies of many religions would interpret as a sign of social illness, not health.


What an interesting blog post! Your point makes complete sense to me, and might also explain to a certain extent how there are more out atheists (though I realize there are dozens of other facotrs at work too) today in America. Life is certainly better than 200, 1000, or 2000 years ago.


"The only indicator of societal health mentioned above in which religious countries fared better than irreligious countries was suicide."

I really wanted to see some numbers on suicide for Red/Blue states and look at that aspect of the findings in relationship to the USA.


The "happiness" that theists have often seems to be similar to the "happiness" of a drunk (compared to a sober person). Things are better when they are real!

a passing atheist

Stumbling upon this post rather late, very late even, perhaps the correlation between atheism and higher education is also a matter of prosperity: more prosperous people are more likely to attain higher education than more destitute people, so it isn't what they've learned in school that made them atheist, it's the easy life that got them into school.

Robbie Matthews

Sing it, sister.


"The "happiness" that theists have often seems to be similar to the "happiness" of a drunk (compared to a sober person). Things are better when they are real!"

Hey! As a regular drunk, I find that comparison rather offensive!


On linguistic terms, wouldn't "atheosphere" also include parts of the atheist universe that aren't Net-, Web-, or blog-related?



Oh, one other thing--an "Edge" article by two researchers makes several of the same points about social security (lower-case "s"es) and education leading to secularism/atheism:

Good stuff--you and them.

The Rabbit Ambulance

I can only speak for myself here, and the world seen through my naturalism is awesome: nothing is unknowable or unexplainable, and everything that's not known or unexplained is just waiting for the right meat computer to come along and solve the puzzle. To me, that's just one of the beautiful things in a universe where causality can be counted on.


This would seem to be a lot more complex than which one causes the other. For individuals, poor conditions lead to faith, and for others, poor conditions can lead to atheism. Maybe the link between standard of living and atheism isn't direct, but the two are actually the result of the phenomenon of logic and better education. The study looks at countries that have organic atheism, probably ignoring countries like China where atheism is enforced and still hasn't improved things much. It seems there could be another factor that goes along better with the happiness and well being of a country, freedom of belief, not simply just atheism.


These are cogent arguments. Very compelling.

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