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Joshua Zelinsky

The basic point is correct but there are a few important details that need to be noted. First, while by many metrics (crime rate, education level, etc.) less religious countries in general perform better, there's a serious causation. v. correlation problem here in that it may be that with fewer problems people have less of a need to turn to religion. Second, there's one metric which is not well correlated. Suicide rates are higher in less religious countries. It isn't clear why this is the case and I suspect that it is the Hamlet problem and related issues. However, this is only a single variable and most other metrics go in the other direction.

The underlying point, that societies don't fall apart when they are less religious is still clearly the case. If anything a case can be made for the other direction.

Maria

I've never actually seen the claim that it is atheism per se that leads to a better functioning society by several metrics - I only see the claims that a) atheists claim this, and b) that a high rate of atheism in a society will lead to all kinds of horrors.

So, yeah, it's only meant to refute claim b, as it clearly does not lead to this, and to show that indeed, religion is not needed. Personally I think there might be something in the claim that it is a better functioning society that leads to higher rates of atheism.

As for higher rates of suicide, that is probably unrelated as well.

Spencer

Do the suicide statistics include physician-assisted suicides?

It seems to me that in more secular countries, where the religious rhetoric on the sanctity of the soul and the sin of suicide runs less rampant, more terminally ill patients may seek physician-assisted suicide, since it's not stigmatized as much.

However, I'm no sociologist and I haven't done the research, so it's just an idea.

Jimmy Crummins

The sample size we was dealing with in this assertion is pathetically low and those countries that do have "high rates of freely chosen non-belief" also all happen to be in Western Europe - which had a lot going for it economically and socially before the advent of atheism came rolling along. In short, there just isn't enough examples yet to draw conclusions about cause and effect.

Joshua Zelinsky

Jimmy, well, you get the same results if you include a lot of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But I agree that there's not enough data to work out what the causal relationships are. There is however enough data to show that the claim that lack of religion leads to societal breakdown is demonstrably false.

Greta Christina

Joshua: What Maria said. Very few people are arguing that atheism actually causes high levels of social functioning. Most people think it's the other way around: high rates of social functioning lead to higher rates of atheism. This meme isn't to say "Atheism will make society better" -- simply that it won't make it worse.

(Also, FYI: Jimmy has been trolling for this same fight for weeks now. Please don't feed him.)

Jimmy: Your concern is noted. Thank you for sharing.

Maria

Do the suicide statistics include physician-assisted suicides? It seems to me that in more secular countries, where the religious rhetoric on the sanctity of the soul and the sin of suicide runs less rampant, more terminally ill patients may seek physician-assisted suicide, since it's not stigmatized as much.

This is not very common, as far as I know. In Western Europe I think there are only three countries where it's legal - Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands, and if I recall right there aren't very many cases of it in those countries.

I'd doubt very much that it's included in suicide statistics, or that it would have any effect on those statitics worth noticing.

Melody

You ask questions, but you want no answers.

There is so much more to life. Are we not more than the sum of our parts? More than synapses firing and meat?

Open your eyes!

DA

Well, thanks Melody. What a helpful explanation.

chicago dyke

Melody offers nothing, like most religionists. just accusation, without example. how typical of her kind.


what's important about ideas like this: society can *function* without religion. there are good and bad examples, but the point is that it is possible.

we're atheists, we take it for granted. but for the religious, it's beyond heresy, it's almost unimaginable. they hear "society" and instantly think "religiously based morals and values underpinning the structure of that organization of people." they literally cannot understand how "right" and "wrong" and "law" and "justice" are formed, without the help of superstition, legend and myth.

we, otoh, employ logic, science, math and history as we form our values. accordingly, measures of fairness, equality, balance, and opportunity are important to us, and we try to ensure them for everyone.

it's a, heh, testament to religious propaganda that it is so effective in this way. more than 90% of the nation would be 'shocked' by the idea that one can be a moral, law abiding, compassionate person and not believe in (X). when the case should be the opposite, and most people should feel like we do, and that bloodthirsty mythology is no basis for a system of morals and values.

Greta Christina

Melody: My eyes are open, and I'd certainly be interested in hearing any evidence you have that we are more than material, biological beings. What evidence do you have of that?

I've looked at the currently available evidence pretty carefully, and all the evidence I've seen points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that we are just material, biological beings, and that consciousness, whatever it is, is a biological process. (In fact, I used to be a believer in a non-physical consciousness, and it was this evidence that persuaded me to change my mind.)

I'm fine with this -- I actually think it's pretty cool. The idea that, out of a complex, billions- of- years-long re-arrangement of the molecules of the earth and the energy of the sun, we somehow evolved conscious thought? I think that's totally cool. But if you have some evidence to the contrary -- other than "It really, really seems that way to me" -- I'd be very interested in hearing it.

DA

Greta, sorry to go off topic here, but I just discovered this track by Straylight Run called "Who Will Save Us Now?" It's about rejecting religious and authoritarian certainty and I think you'd dig it.

Jimmy Crummins

Joshua

"There is however enough data to show that the claim that lack of religion leads to societal breakdown is demonstrably false."

I agree with this addition: When societies transition they enter a certain danger zone. For some issues, this is a non-problem and obviously so. Giving women the right to vote was not going to cause serious social instability. Just as giving Gays the right to marry won't either. But when your entire socio - political system is based around a specific religion and a movement tries to dislodge that and turn to secularism, there is a huge danger of extreme violence. In fact, this is a universal truth whenever peoples turn from one form of government to another or when they try to break the bonds of state control.

Here on this blog you are seeing people who are almost exclusively western and see the world from a very western, strongly secular influenced outlook. But in some parts of the world the very notion of a secular society is an anathema.

Most people in the US are not aware of this, but Christians and Jews are considered by Muslims to be "people of the book". That means that while Muslims consider them to be incorrect in their interpretations, they are still close cousins. A Muslim man may marry a Christian or Jewish woman. He may not marry a Bhudist, atheist or individual from another faith. This infleunces our relationship with the Arabic world in particular more than the vast majority of people understand. For practical reasons, maintaining this facade has an advantage for us - though I realize most people here would reject that real politik view.

Joshua Zelinsky

Melody, many of the people both reading and commenting here are people who were at one point religious but are no longer so. So telling them to open their eyes doesn't exactly make sense.

Jimmy,

That argument is nonsensical. The primary reason that there are any problems between the Western world and the Islamic world today is due to religion. If they weren't religious, there would be much less reason for them to hate us.

Greta Christina

Joshua Zelinsky: Jimmy has been trolling for this same fight for weeks. Please don't feed him.

Jimmy Crummins

"If they weren't religious, there would be much less reason for them to hate us.

Greta
Saying "If they weren't religious" is the equivelent of saying "if there there were no gravity then planes wouldn't crash." They ARE religious, and they are not about to leave that faith through intellectual arguement. Their world view is not, and never has, been based upon reason. They subordinate reason to faith. When these two are in conflict, faith always wins. Islam, for some very good reasons I'll be happy to explain if you wish, never had a reformation. It's never had an enlightment movement. Arguements of pursuasion are fine in the western world, but for places where reason is subordinate to other factors, such arguements don't work.

And honestly I am not trolling. I would think you would want to hear a viewpoint that is based on experience from parts of the world you are clearly not familiar with.

Greta Christina

Jimmy: I am not going to get sucked into debating the merits of atheist activism with you again.

Re trolling: As I have warned you before, making the same point over and over again in multiple comment threads is a form of trolling and comment hogging. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I welcome dissent and debate and new points of view -- but you have now made this particular point ad nauseum, to the point where it is disrupting the blog. If you don't stop doing this, you will be banned. Thank you.

llewelly

Spencer | May 14, 2010 at 10:56 PM:

Do the suicide statistics include physician-assisted suicides?

And what about police-assisted suicides?

Maria

but you have now made this particular point ad nauseum, to the point where it is disrupting the blog. If you don't stop doing this, you will be banned. Thank you.

Who wants to bet that he will ignore this warning, keep making the same point, whether it's on topic or not, and get himself banned - just so that he can complain about how he was censored by the "fundamentalist atheists"?

DA

'And what about police-assisted suicides?'

That made me LOL. Gallows humor, sure, but given some of the recent horrific police abuses we've seen in the US, timing seems appropriate.


Jimmy Crummins

Greta
You make the arguement that there is "no evidence to support the idea of God" ad Nauseum as well - do you not? Why do you keep repeating that mantra? Of course it's going to continue to come up when you are trying to convince people that there is no God it's a central theme of your position. And a central theme to my position on transitioning American society away from religion is to understand the potential negative impacts of such a transition. I don't see how this can't be the central part of any discussion on atheism.

Bruce Gorton

This is not so much an answer to Jimmy but a response to whoever thinks it unjustified if he gets banned:

This is Greta Christina's blog. This is not your blog. If you want to make the same point over and over again on your own blog, you are free to do so.

But so long as you are on Greta's blog - her word is law. This is basic blog ettiquette.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: Maria | May 14, 2010 at 01:47 PM

I think it is a bit of a mix - my experience is that instability leads to religion, but religion then makes dealing with instability more problematic.

It is why I think Debunking Delusions by Nathan Geffen is such an important resource.

Jimmy Crummins

"This is Greta Christina's blog. This is not your blog. If you want to make the same point over and over again on your own blog, you are free to do so.

But so long as you are on Greta's blog - her word is law. This is basic blog ettiquette."

Bruce
While it is certainly Greta's right to entertain who she will entertain on "Her blog", if you exclude people for pretty weak excuses, what's the point? I can understand excluding people who are making obnoxious personal attacks on others or who are spamming a blog to take it down. But I am not doing either of those things. I think I am making some salient points that are essentially making others here uncomfortable (including Greta) because they don't fit into their world view. Either you are tolerant (and how you run your "own blog" most certianly reflects on how tolerant you are) of other viewpoints that are oppossed to your own or you are not.

Valhar2000

Fight the good fight, Jimmy!

And to the rest of you: when will you realize that Jimmy is a superior being who must not be bound by any our your petty rules, or desires? So what if you want to do things a certain way, in your own life, on your own terms, without affecting anyone else? Jimmy supersedes all that! He is important, he is great, HE IS RIGHT!

You go, Jimmy!

Greta Christina

And that's all she wrote.

Jimmy Crummins has been banned from this blog.

He is not being banned for expressing views that are different from mine. As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I accept and indeed encourage dissent, disagreement, and debate in this blog. And I have banned people for trollishly expressing views that entirely agreed with my own.

Jimmy has been warned repeatedly about making the same arguments over and over again in multiple comment threads. He has been warned that this is a form of trolling and comment hogging. He has chosen to ignore these warnings, and has continued attempting to monopolize conversations with this same point that he won't let go of. I am not willing to have my blog become the Jimmy Crummins show. Goodbye.

Maria

Good riddance!

I can forgive trolls many things, but when they just become ridicuously predictable and mind-numbingly boring...

Greta Christina

And can I just say: Maria totally called it!

Maria, May 16, 2010 at 12:18 PM: "Who wants to bet that he will ignore this warning, keep making the same point, whether it's on topic or not, and get himself banned - just so that he can complain about how he was censored by the 'fundamentalist atheists'?"

Jimmy, May 17, 2010 at 03:28 AM: "Either you are tolerant (and how you run your 'own blog' most certianly reflects on how tolerant you are) of other viewpoints that are oppossed to your own or you are not."

Maria for the win!

Maria

Thanks *bows* :-)

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