Atheism vs. Theism: The Statistics

Possibly my favourite article on this blog so far is the Religion and Morality post. I was originally intending to conclude that article with some statistics on how atheists and theists compare on the sorts of issues people normally use to judge morality, but as the article was very lengthy already, I thought I should save it for another post. So here it is.

Before theists trot out their usual arguments that the greatest mass murderers in history were atheists—or that the communism is an example of how atheism leads to unhealthy societies—please read my Religion and Morality article, which covers these misconceptions thoroughly. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, check out the results of Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index. As is graphically represented in this Epiphenom article, the most atheist countries are the most peaceful—and the most religious countries are the most violent. These results may not mean religion makes people more violent though—it could mean violence makes people more religious. So to make these comparisons as meaningful as possible, we have to eliminate socio-economic factors as much as possible. Hence, it is most instructive to compare the US—which is by far the most religious western country—with other western countries. As can be seen when we do this, the US rates alongside such countries as China, and is behind (often well behind) other western countries.

What’s more, there’s just no escaping the fact that all the most peaceful countries are the most atheist, and the most violent countries are also the most religious (unless we falsely consider the Russian Federation to be atheist, which would make it the lone exception anyway). Even if we accept that violence makes people more religious, clearly atheism does not make people less moral as theists often assume—otherwise, it simply wouldn’t be possible for the most atheist countries to be the most peaceful. We may be able to overlook the religiosity of the most violent countries on socio-economic grounds, but it is impossible to ignore the peacefulness of the most atheist countries.

Okay, so what about other measures of morality, such as the abortion rate? As atheists generally do not even consider abortion to be immoral in the first place, surely this one would work out in favour of more religious countries? Curiously though, exactly the opposite is true! Why is that? Because along with resisting abortion, most religions also resist sex education and contraception. By far the best way to avoid abortion is to avoid conception—most religions say the best way to do this is through abstinence, but as the statistics show, that simply doesn’t work in practice. People will always have sex, and it seems they will nearly always abort any unwanted pregnancies that may result as well, regardless of how religious they are. The only difference is how willing they are to use contraception. So religion not only leads to higher abortion rates, but higher rates of STDs as well—as is so tragically the case in many third world countries.

Okay, okay, but surely it would be even more instructive to look at the statistics within just one given country? That way we can largely eliminate all the socio-economic, political and historical complications altogether. In that case, how about the percentage of atheists in US prisons relative to the general population? It just so happens that the US Federal Bureau of Prisons has detailed statistics on the religious affiliations of inmates. Depending on who you ask, atheists represent between 8-16% of the US population, and given the unwillingness of many atheists in the US to admit to their lack of beliefs, it is entirely possible that the real figure may be as high as 20% or more. Yet atheists represent only 0.2% of the US prison population. That means atheists are up to 100 times less likely to go to jail than theists in the US! This statistic is even more stunning when you consider the fact that most Americans view atheists with suspicion, so one would imagine that US juries would be far more inclined to convict atheists than theists, all other things being equal.

Even many atheists fear social anarchy should all theists accept that God doesn’t exist. Happily though, the statistics unambiguously show the opposite.

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It really isn’t as cut and dry as the movie makes it out to be:

2010 – GPI numbers
Countries with highly religiously identified populations
Qatar = 15
UAE = 44
Oman = 23
Egypt = 49
Lybian Arab Jamahariya = 56
Morocco = 68
Ireland = 6
United Kingdom = 31
Singapore = 30

2010 GPI numbers
Countries with higher athiestically identified populations:
Russian Federation = 143
Belarus = 105
Ukraine = 97
Latvia = 42
Lithuania = 54
Estonia = 46

So I just picked 15 countries that pretty much the reverse of the 32 countries that were shown in the film.

Unfortunately this correllation isn’t very accurate, nor is it really the causation of the low or high GPI numbers. In fact it should have come as no surprise that the GPI organization didn’t even use religion as part of their measuring criteria as it didn’t have a very good overall predictive ability.

  
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@Akacra – For one thing, the UK and Ireland do have a relatively high percentage of atheists. For another thing, all the “atheist” countries you’ve cited are part of the former USSR. As I say in my Religion and Morality article, to call the communist countries atheist is actually very misleading.

  
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Americans will always assert their “Constitutional Right” to remain ignorant — which is funny because the First Amendment never mentions that.
I wonder, Sachiko, what do we make of the Aztecs and ritual human sacrifice? To them, it wasn’t just moral, it was necessary. To them, it was the manner of your death which redeemed and gave meaning to your life. How do we puzzle out their sense of ethics?

  
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Originally Posted By Firefly
I wonder, Sachiko, what do we make of the Aztecs and ritual human sacrifice? To them, it wasn’t just moral, it was necessary. To them, it was the manner of your death which redeemed and gave meaning to your life. How do we puzzle out their sense of ethics?

I guess this is a good example of how insane religion can get, even amongst otherwise seemingly quite civilised and rational people. When you think the sun won’t come up if you don’t follow your religious rituals, you’ll never risk not following them!

  
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In the material I sent you yesterday, religions were viewed as something to enhance the evolution of our species. In the present case, it is the sons of Abraham squabbling over whose version of which text should be the winner.

Atheists, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about such things, or how many angels can dance on the top of a pin – head.

Talmudizing over such important points, is useless if it’s serious. As a friend and fellow Viet Nam vet told me years ago: “I’d rather be happy than right.”

In the end that must come for all of us, which insane asylum you get to spend the rest of infinity in, is problematic. For me, I’d rather get stuffed into a pillow case, tossed into a pit or the sea, and let the locals do their thing.

  
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I think the Norwegians would be surprised to learn that they are atheists. The Lutheran church is “established” in Norway and funded by every taxpayers’ Krone. The church and it’s rituals still figure large in Norwegian life, particularly such rites as Confirmation which almost every Noggie undergoes. If you are born in Norway you are born into the Lutheran church, and must actively opt-out. The church wields great power still, able to influence much policy such as the counter-productive and hypocritical laws on alcohol. Kjell Magne Bondevik, a previous Prime Minister, is a priest in the Church of Norway. Doesn’t really weaken the overall argument, but I think it’s important to be accurate or lose credibility.

  
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The former communist countries have been non-communist now for nearly 20 years – 1 generation now, and yet here in 2009 this survey shows relatively low recurrence of religious activity in daily life in the former republics of the Soviet union I referenced above:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/Religiosity-Highest-World-Poorest-Nations.aspx

Like I said before, religiosity is not a good measure of Peace, instead it appears to be a factor of “wealth” or probably more accurately a diverse education that people with higher incomes tend to have a better access to in these still developing nations. Also it probably has to do with where this “education” comes from – so madrasas, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious institutions doing the educating probably have a huge opportunity to bias development through either latent or included programs of proselytization.

  
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@davyclam – Clearly the Lutheran church has become an almost entirely political – as opposed to religious – construct in Norway. It is quite curious that the Scandinavian countries have official churches of the state, yet have the highest percentage of people who say they don’t believe in God. On the other hand, the US has the separation of Church and state written into the constitution, yet has the most religious population of any western country! I wonder if this is simply a coincidence?

  
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Originally Posted By Akacra
The former communist countries have been non-communist now for nearly 20 years – 1 generation now, and yet here in 2009 this survey shows relatively low recurrence of religious activity in daily life in the former republics of the Soviet union I referenced above:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/Religiosity-Highest-World-Poorest-Nations.aspx

That’s not the point. The point is, the socio-economic circumstances of these countries have been shaped by their recent communist past – they are the way they are because of this, not because they are atheist. As I say in my article, for the most meaningful comparison, we have to compare like with like socio-economically – when we do this, the most atheist nations are the most peaceful.

  
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On this one I think you have missed some vital components of your analysis. I am trying to point out that religion is institutionally based which clarifies not only the poor countries highly religious connection, but also the apparent “oddness” of Singapore and the US, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait Oman high religousness/high wealth/lower Peace index and the former Soviet Republic’s lack of religiousness yet high peace index scores

In the U.S. the common parlance is that of a “melting pot” where everything “blends” together supposedly producing a homogeneous mixture of cultures and cultural experiences. However the reality is more like a salad, that while continually being mixed with populations moving from area to area freely, there are still small and large groupings which relate to each other through common heritages including religious preferences. So we get thousands of small towns or even counties of each state of the country that are highly religious, while the urban centers on the whole have small pockets with a big mixture of religious backgrounds and ethnicities.

The U.S. is actually like 50 countries/states under a Federal government – and each county in a state actually may have a different “feel” to it in terms of culture and religious heritage, which is one of the reasons to celebrate that the US actually works the way it does could even be considered outstanding, as many other regions in the world with much less cultural difference have spent the past thousands of years trying to kill each other, while the US has really only had 50 years of serious bloodshed & violence (Civil War & Indian Campaigns) from the 1850′s to early 1900′s.

Here is a Gallup Poll study regarding religiosity based on US states and the comparison of similarly religious country’s attitudes.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/114211/Alabamians-Iranians-Common.aspx

As an example of how these pockets occur in a modern context (1980′s) lets look at the circumstances of Oregon. An Indian religious sect basically bought up and converted the town of Antelope, Oregon into its own religious sanctuary (Baghwan Shree Rajneesh).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antelope,_Oregon

This happens/has happened in a less divisive way, throughout many small towns. The Mennonites are also highly prominent in some small communities, as well as the Russian Orthodox Christians and Russian Orthodox Jews who fled from the Soviet Union prior to and during the purges occuring there in the 40′s and 50′s. These pockets of religous communities still remain intact and highly religious today, with very little outside influence to change their transplanted way of life.

So even though Oregon matches up with Israel in that Gallup comparison, it’s peace index number would be much lower than Israels.

The same goes for Singapore as well, because the government observes the protection of languages and religious beliefs. In fact you get 4 religious observation days off from work (mandated by the government even for private businesses) during the year based on your religion’s primary holidays, and businesses will open and close according to the religious beliefs of their owners. So, for example, while Ramadan is observed by Muslim businesses according to their traditions, the rest of the country runs as normal. Or when the Chinese New Year is being celebrated or the Malaysian Hari Raya is going on, these distinctive festivals and traditions are met with open celebration throughout the city.

Also the Singaporean society supports a wide variety of religious traditions, including a Hindu temple that is over 150 years old, mosques, churches and other religious institutions that seem to be advertising as much as the hawker stalls in the food courts. Plus each culture is represented in the schools by “mother cultures”. So if you are Indian by heritage, then you can choose to study at one of Indian schools that specialize in one of the 34 dialects of Indian language as well as your courses in English, Mathematics, History etc. If you are Chinese, you can choose to learn Mandarin, Cantonese or Hokkien. If you are Malay, then you can choose to learn Malay, and if you are Western, then you can learn your home language as well, but all also learn English as a standard way of communication. Sharia Laws are also observed in Singapore, and there are in fact separate ministries of Marriage and Courts for Muslim citizens. In fact I was very surprised that Singapore had such a high number on its Peace Index, but due to its hub of shipping activities and its neccessary emphasis on defense – as it remembers the Japanese invasion and the complete collapse of the British forces during WWII, and it’s, at times, tenuous/disputed relationship with Malaysia over the past 45 years that it’s need for heavy weapon systems and other deterents don’t match up to its tiny size and population (5 Million).

In the other countries mentioned (Oman, UAE, & Qatar, Kuwait) being Muslim is part of being a citizen, its an identity as much as anything else.
So these “wealthy” but highly religious countries have established institutional religiousness into the constructs of their citizens identities.

Now on to the why of the former Soviet Republics remain some of the least religious. It is simple, the institutions of religion were marginalized, removed, discredited for 70 years. People were taught that answers to life and existence no longer came from those source. While there were huge purges, mass migrations, and general terrible components of that 70 years – primarily from the late 30′s to the late 70′s – the lesson learned from these occurences were that religion didn’t have any answers. As a result there are few active religious schools and institutions, nor are there many congregations, nor are there many cultural identifications with religion that draw many people back into having belief, as part of their notion of identity.

So while their socio-economic development differed in a top down structural way from their poorer and highly religious counterparts, their non-religousness is a product of their not being able to form an identity with a religious background as part of the background because it had been essentially edited out of society. The Soviet system may have the one footnote that it essentially removed the 1800 year old societal conversion to religion as the population reverted back to a prereligious state of stoic/epicurean beliefs which apparently are being observed even though a full generation has lived in a society much freer from such restrictions than those under the soviet regimes.

So to sum up – In the US due to so much diversity, regional/local religion is seen as a component of culture that keeps societal identity intact. Singapore celebrates its diversity, while only making sure that everyone can talk to each other (English) and in the former Soviet republics there aren’t any connective manifestations of religion with any positive outcomes remembered or being passed on in an organized way, so the teachings have no real place in their societies, even if life is just as hard as in those poorer and religously prominent countries.

  
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@Akacra – I’m certainly very interested to figure out why the US is so religious, but your analysis appears to ignore two critically important points:

1: The religiosity in the US is predominantly Christian, hence is apparently not the result of a large number of different religions converging upon it.

2: Other high immigration countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia etc. are much less religious.

  
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The predominance of Christianity in the US is simply a reflection of which groups immigrated the earliest. You can even break it down to where they settled in many cases.

http://www.teachingaboutreligion.org/Demographics/map_demographics.htm

In the past 10 years the Christian component has decreased percentage wise by 0.7% with the growth of other religions and non-relegion gaining roughly half of that decline each (0.35%)

Previous minority groups that were non-christians became converted into Christianity. However since the Boat people of the Laos/vietnam era, in the 1970′s we are starting to see the establishment of larger concentrations and numbers of other religious groups. These are largely established now in the bay area of California, and for Muslims, for some reason Michigan (Deerborn, Detroit) and Illinois (Chicago) and of course New York, but there are now Mosques and Temples and Synagogues in almost every community of America, just with smaller numbers than the pre-existing Christian congregations.

To further understand the context of religion in America look at this site:

http://pewforum.org/Pew-Forum/About-the-Pew-Forum.aspx

For a fully researched and archived look at World Religion, look at this site:

http://www.adherents.com/

But a possible connection between the two issues you raise, is that Europe drove most of its religious zealots out over the past 1200 years, and eventually dropped most of its religious regalia in support of nationalism and now continentalism. Again the same for Canada. However since the foundation of the first colonies in the US, religious conviction was always a cornerstone, and the fact that many of them were escaping from persecution made these colonies clutch tighter and longer than would normally be expected.

The U.S.’s “dogmatic” discipline to the freedom of expression, and its inclusion in the Bill of Rights was meant to protect people’s ability to express their faith openly and without government supported oppressive action or government support for a specific religion with the other religions suffering under religious regimes.

Europe, Canada, Australia, don’t have anywhere near the numbers of potential immigrants, and don’t allow anywhere near the numbers of Asylum seekers, that are primarily religious in nature.

Australia 6.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Canada 5.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
United Kingdom 2.16 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)

United States 4.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)

Austrailia Population in Thousands – 21,262 ~ 106,000 immigrant/YR
Canada Population in Thousands – 33,487 ~160,000 immigrant/YR
United Kingdom Population in Thousands – 61,113 ~125,000 immigrant/YR

United States Population in Thousands – 307,212 ~1.3 million immigrant/YR

Sources:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2112.html
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html

For more on Migration trends see:
http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php

However the emphasis is that it is hard to establish new religious institutions if the population entering is small, and are being assimilated quickly into the new culture. In America, though religious people are not generally directed to embrace the new culture, and instead tend to seek out areas of similar experience. This has been going on since the first influx of Chinese established the 40 or so prominent China Towns in the 1860-1900′s across major cities in America. Now there are entire towns such as Monterey Park in California -

“Monterey Park outside Los Angeles is predominantly Chinese, but the ethnic concentration in many nearby towns–Alhambra, Rosemead, Hacienda Heights–runs to more like 30 or 40 percent; and few of the Asians dispersed through Silicon Valley live in recognizably Asian neighborhoods. Still, it is possible to reside in, say, Hacienda Heights and speak mostly Chinese, both at home and at work, do all your shopping in stores that specialize in Asian products, socialize exclusively with people who look like you, get all your news from “in-language” ethnic media, and even manage your six-figure professional income without ever speaking a word of English (by patronizing ATM’s with Mandarin screens or the local Charles Schwab branch where business is done largely in Chinese).”

Source:
http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_comm-in_asian_america.htm

There are examples of such places for almost every culture, ethnicity and religion in the US.

Again to sum up – the U.S. has such an influx of immigrants coming here and seeking to establish themselves free of religious and socioeconomic restraints that existed from where they came from that from sheer brute numbers a larger percentage of people do not assimilate into the culture. The Christians were the predominant force for migration for nearly 400 years, and they were the heaviest persecuted group from their home countries, so they held their religious beliefs above life in most cases as being important, but now 40 years of other populations entering the US and escaping their former existances with their religious beliefs are starting to take a shape in a significant manner in the US now as well.

Finally the conundrum of the US can be seen in that 400 years of attracting and protecting and nurturing the most religious peoples that could escape persecution from around the world have created this bizarre situation that while diverse and incoherently religious at times, the US really does live up to its notion of a “beacon on a hill” and the notion of “bring us your tired and weary, your disenfranchised and persecuted” continues even if, every so often America gets reactionary, and its ignorant “know nothings” appear to rise up and seem to threaten the very tenants of its existence and purpose of being.

  
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@Akacra – The thing is though, all the other high immigration countries I mention were at least as predominantly Christian to start out with as the US. Australia still actually had a “white Australia” immigration policy only less than 50 years ago, and of course, the UK has some of the longest and greatest Christian heritage of any country. Also, by your own statistics, the other countries I cite have an even higher percentage of immigrants than the US! And the UK has a much higher overall population density than the US as well. I’m sorry Akacra, but I’m not convinced by your hypothesis.

  
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Australia, I don’t think can be considered a non-Christian country today.
69.4% Christian and 11.9% margin of no answer could mean up to 81.3% of the country is Christian in some way. The growth of their minortiy religions is also similar to the US ~ 5.6% today. The data is from 2006, but it shows the entire century and the shift, but not the removal of religious belief being prominent in the country.
(96% in 1901, and between 63.8% and 75.7% Christian – as there is an 11.9% No Answer/DK in 2006)

http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/_factsheets/1.%20Religion_FactSheet.pdf

Also Canada is still a highly religious country as well:
77% Christian and 83% overall according to this data from 2008
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Religion_in_Canada

Until 2001, the UK was definitely still a Christian Nation – 71% Christian, up to 79% if you take the No Answer/DK margin of ~8%. However now a series of polls have shown it to have dropped as low as 48% with 7% other religions. So it will be very interesting to see what the census data actually says in 2011, will it support the polling, or will it stay as it has been in the past?

The US is 78% Christian and 4.7% other (Data from 2007)
http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

As far as percentages vs real numbers, the reason I wanted to go into those real numbers is that it would take the entire continent of Europe combined to generate even half of the numbers that are going into the US in relation to immigrants, and even then most of them are immigrating from another country in Europe.

Real numbers matter more than percentages when determining impacts on society. If you have 106,000 immigrants/YR, and a majority of them are from a similar cultural background entering society at a rate averaging just under 3000 a day, and you compare that with the impact that just under 45,000 a day will have and a majority of those are coming from cultures very different from the assimilating body of the US. You can see how these numbers can create more issues, especially since most of them will hit the hub ports of New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Miami, LA, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle – roughly 5000 new people a day each, not including tourists, and internal movements of people from within the US. Many of these immigrants will then go to live and work in the cultural neighborhoods that already exist in these cities, and they will find a way to make it their new home.

I don’t see similar components of the major cities in Australia, Canada, or the UK, having these cultural havens for new immigrants to naturalize into, to the degree that the US has them.

For instance I don’t think that Glasgow, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, and Ottowa are having these levels of foriegn born percentages:
50.0% (Los Angeles County)
46.7% (New York City)

Much less province/prefectures having foriegn born populations like the US States:
California 37.9%
New York 27.9%
Florida 23.8%
Texas 21.0%
New Jersey 27.5%

Source: http://www.cis.org/articles/2007/back1007.html

So I hope this shows that diversity has some unusual side effects, and that the U.S.’s diversity shows why it holds its religiousness between 3 and 14% higher than other countries who have similar or less “developed” nation statuses.

However, I think we have become sidetracked from my original suggestion that religiosity has very little to do with the Peace Index, which was the purpose of this discussion prior to our side track to the American religous experience.

  
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Originally Posted By Akacra
Australia, I don’t think can be considered a non-Christian country today.
69.4% Christian and 11.9% margin of no answer could mean up to 81.3% of the country is Christian in some way. The growth of their minortiy religions is also similar to the US ~ 5.6% today. The data is from 2006, but it shows the entire century and the shift, but not the removal of religious belief being prominent in the country.
(96% in 1901, and between 63.8% and 75.7% Christian – as there is an 11.9% No Answer/DK in 2006)

Actually, that’s kind of my point. The raw demographics of these countries are all very similar, yet the US is the most overtly religious by far. As in Scandinavia, many people nominally belong to a church in Australia, the UK and Canada, but don’t actively attend it or even actually believe in God.

  
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Anybody watching Anderson Cooper 360 right now? Good conversations with folks that do not agree with either the Koran burning or the Ground Zero Mosque. The burning is one of the more insane acts by US civilians with world-wide consequences of a serious nature. The Mosque is consistent with some of our most fundamental reasons for the existence of this nation – religious freedom and tolerance. If these two events get out of hand, I think we might as well bend over and kiss our country good bye. No place on earth will be safe from the issues between the sons and daughters of Abraham – except, maybe, Patagonia, or some of the smaller uninhabited islands of the Pacific. If there is a peace movement left over from the 60′s and 70′s, it’s time to step up, and make our presence known. Theists, atheists and whatever other label-ists you want to attach yourself to on these issues, are, in my opinion, fostering a world-wide conflict for the most ridiculous of reasons.

If only there were some way to piss on the burners; maybe, fire hoses or lawn hoses, fire suppression aircraft, a BIG thunderstorm. If this burning does go off as planned, I know which may my flag is going to be displayed. Sachiko, is there any room down there for us vets that are against solving problems violently?

  
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We seem to be talking crossways to each other, so I don’t know where we have arrived from this discussion.

I keep asserting that the difference between the U.S. and the other countries you cite, is the fact that religion in the U.S. is insular, and is consistently supported by the community. So while each and every congregation is rather small – except for the evangelicals which seem to spend at least 50% of their time at the church and really like the huge meeting halls that draw regional congregations on a weekly basis, the impact is a highly preserved religious sense of identity.
Secondly I suggested that the most persecuted religious groups end up in the U.S, that surprisingly started almost 130 years before the bill of rights was written, with the Jamestown Colony in the early 1600′s.

I guess I don’t understand why you dismiss “my theory” even though it isn’t just “my theory”, but instead is the most current thinking in sociological and theocratic circles regarding the reason for the US’s religious fervor vs this really worldwide silence about religious topics, except radical Islam and the Israeli states continued over the top activities. The fervor found in US religious components is also replicated in our political discussion and has resulted in the past 240 years of heated, often times caustic, identity politics.

All the UK citizens, Irish, Australians, Germans, Norwegians and Canadians I have known have been highly religious, but they just tend to keep it to themselves rather than announce it to whomever they are talking to at the moment like Americans. I realize that my personal recollections are not data, but I have also actually done sociological research for scholarly, private and not-for-profit organizations and the data and interpretations based on these independent research studies confirm the information that is being reported in the context of these documents I keep submitting.

The primary difference is that in America you tend to see people announcing basically what they are as a person to everyone, and expect to hear what other people are, announced back with truth and vigor. In most of the rest of the world you see a larger percentage of people working towards a larger goal – family, company, community, country, etc – and expressing personal positions only in the appropriate settings, while keeping to themselves those issues which might otherwise be bothersome or quarrelsome, especially religion. In America, a growing group of people don’t attend church regularly, but they definitely identify with one religious group or another, and will tell you about their belief in god, whether you want to hear it or not.

So I guess the what I am presenting is 4 main ideas:

1. The US has been attractive and continues to attract highly religious people around the world that collect themselves into self-identifying groups centered in the rural small towns for those native born and in small ethnic pockets and communities for most of the non-native born immigrants that are spread throughout most of the big cities.

2. The US has a secondary unusual characteristic of self-aggrandization, i.e. ugly American syndrome which seems to express itself especially in terms of religious, political arenas.

3. Worldwide most of these characteristics found in America are absent from these other cultures, and only the most extremist groups continue to express themselves in this partisan way for whatever they want to have an opinion on. Thus people will outwardly identify themselves if culturally acceptable dress is available, but won’t directly talk about their religion, unless you bring it up as a topic of discussion.

4. The idea of religiosity or lack thereof being a good indicator of the ability to obtain or pursue peace is flawed due to the fact that there are a substantial number of countries that defy this construct too much for it to be non-causitive, or at least as positive correllation as implied by the video that you created this thread with.

  
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@Gordy – This is indeed very worrying, but sadly, I’m beginning to wonder if Australia is that much better than the US on these sorts of issues. It certainly is to a degree, but not as much as I’d like.

@Akacra – To respond to your points:

1. This only puts the question back a step – you fail to explain why this is the case.

2. This may be getting closer to the heart of the matter.

3. Once again, you fail to explain why this difference exists in otherwise culturally similar countries.

4. As you can see if you read the text of my article instead of just watching the video, I have some agreement with you on this. Still, one thing is clear: the statistics do not support the contention that atheism leads to immorality, or that religion makes people more moral than they would otherwise be.

  
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1. Centuries of persecution in their home countries lead those that couldn’t or wouldn’t back down from their positions, to end up in America and then if they couldn’t act amicably on the East Coast they moved west until they were left alone.
Pilgrims, Hugenots, Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers, Amish, Seventh Day Adventists, Mennonites, all came over in the first waves from 1600′s to 1850′s after being persecuted by the catholics and the inquisitors most famous in spain but just as potent in France, Italy, Portugal, etc. Of course we had the forced extraction of slaves from Africa which while highly persecuted for 300 years at least, also inserted their own beliefs from shamanism to their own teachings of christianity that were brought down from tradition (Ethiopia, Egypt, and other locations) and those that had been taught by the White colonists of Congo, South Africa, and many other colonies and religious doctrines. Then Jews from the 1850′s onward to the 1960′s. Greek Orthodox from the 20′s and continuing on today as they were getting removed from Turkey. Russian Orthodox, Armenian Christians, Georgians, and other Russian, Latvian, Estonian, East German, Buddhists began leaving Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Kampuchea, China due to the massive upheavals of Vietnam War, Sri Lankan Civil War the killing fields of Laos, and Great Leap Forward. Islamic peoples moved into America beginning heavily with the fall of the Shah in Iran, but also Palestinians, Saudi Arabians, Jordanians, Syrians, Libyans, and other Middle Eastern countries for either regime change reasons or for the pursuit of financial goals. Throughout this process we had the influx of Latin Americans, Mexicans, Cubans, Hatians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Taiwanese, Koreans, Japanese, Tongan, Hawai’ian Phillipinos, Micronesians, and a myriad of others. In the 90′s we had another wave of Europeans with the fall of the wall and the USSR: East Germans, Bosnians, Romanians, Macedonians, Estonians, Latvians, Albanians and Serbs. In the 2000′s we have seen a huge influx of refugees and immigrants from the African continent as well.

So in essence the reason is the same, escape from persecution or forced relocation, or both with at least for whites the promise of a better/freer/less restricted life. Again and Again groups moving in to the US for similar reasons at different times.

In America the religious were safe from being persecuted for being religious. They were also the most devout and also the most adventurous believers, as they would have otherwise converted their religion or died fighting in the home country instead of leaving it all behind to start anew.

2. Self selection of people willing to relocate and risk all, generally includes the most vocal and strong minded people. These people, now finding themselves in a land where the government isn’t going to kill you for your beliefs, only your actions, means people are going to express their beliefs more fervently, as it is still a marketplace of religions and ideas that are all trying to survive in the new land.

3. Other countries having removed most of the diversity from the population through this process of wars, and peresecution of differences, know that the majority of those left are homogenous in their ideas. Thus they don’t have to argue about religion primarily. Also since most people who speak up in the majority of these places get hammered back down, imprisoned or killed, they generally aren’t going to be too exuberant with any idea that is outside of their cultural norms. (UK vs Irish especially during the troubles), Australia vs Aboriginals. In the US everyone was pretty much against everyone – religious, political, ethnic – battling for power, influence, land, standing, and existence. Most of the conflicts were resolved politically, but in the case of the native Americans and some scottish highlander blood feuds, the civil war and many worker uprisings a great deal of continuing active violence was the norm even into the mid 1960′s.

The UK used Australia for the dumping grounds of criminals for a couple hundred years, while the settlers who weren’t criminals set up churches to assimilate the aboriginal peoples or otherwise destroy the aboriginal way of life. So these are hardly sociologically similar heritages. All the primary actoring groups are white, but other than that, you have a primarily “purified” established country (England) owning most of the world vs, a country made of self imposed exiles fighting for its own survival against at least 2 if not 3 different enemies at various times and various alliances (US) and a bunch of mainstream religious zealots with the backing of the UK and the East Indian Trading Company, and a bunch of prisoners who were under armed British supervision learning to survive in a hostile environment but having a good deal more security and success in creating a successful co-option of the native population into Christianity and the eradication of the aboriginal way of life (Australia).

4. I never said that Athiesm leads to immorality, or that morality was found in greater propensity with religion. My contention was with the idea that a lower Global Peace Index was highly correlated with Athiestic Countries. It isn’t and I was trying to show that there wasn’t a good connection between causation and correllation. Since you are trying to put forth a message and a movement towards Athiesm, I am trying to help by pointing out bad arguments, that could be simply debunked, and as such would diminish the purpose/effectiveness of your website’s message.

  
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@Akacra – I know you never said atheism leads to immorality, but theists very frequently do think and say this, and the central point of my article is that the statistics clearly show this is not true.

As for the rest of your post, Australia was a British penal colony for only about half the time you cite (it became an independent federation in 1900). And much of what you say about the US applies to other immigration countries as well – the only thing that’s unique about the US in this regard is that it has been at it the longest. I don’t think this is enough to explain its relatively greater religiosity.

  
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My bad on the dates of the Australian Penal Colonial Period.
I made a mistake, and thought I had read that the penal colony system for Australia began in 1688 when Australia had been finally mapped, Instead the first prison fleet sailed in 1788. those were the “couple hundred years” (1688-1901) I was referencing, so you were correct as it was only 1788 to 1900.
http://www.dfat.gov.au/aib/history.html

Could you find some sources that support your position that other immigration countries had the same series of waves of immigration and make up in terms of religious backgrounds and that they were able to establish themselves in the way they were able to in the US, or that they were able to make their way to express their beliefs freely for the entire time that they were in the country. There aren’t a lot of countries around that had that sort of environment or conditions conducive to that kind of transplantation or freedom of belief that were available in the US. Even the US wasn’t a nice place for minority religions, but they are still here in America in substantial numbers, while elsewhere they really don’t exist in a substantial way.

Take the Amish for instance:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/amish.htm
There are no established Amish settlements left anywhere outside of North America, and only a few of them chose to go to Canada when the second wave immigrated. Today there are roughly 1500 Amish in South-Western Canada and 180,000 Amish in the US, while all other settlements failed throughout Europe and elsewhere.

The Mennonites:
http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=604
http://history.mennonite.net/
Almost half the entire Mennonite religious community resides in America, with the remaining half are spread thinly througout 14 countries worldwide.

Quakers:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/quaker1.htm
Half of them live in America and half in Kenya, with most of those recent migrants to Kenya leaving from America in the early 1960′s.

While Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Jesuits, etc, are still prominent in one or two originating European countries with much vigor, state sanction or other support, they all have risen to some shared dominance of the religious landscape througout the US, and now in the last 60 years throughout Asia and Africa. However their longest hold has been to exist and to have flourished prominently in the US, with those religions literally having the support and belief of the entire populations of multiple European countries, for each religious group represented in the US.

So, again please support your assessment that things were the same between immigration countries during their development and that the religious settlement patterns and cultural crossovers weren’t significantly different in any of the waves of immigration that I mentioned in my previous posting.

  
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@Akacra – I have to be honest and say that I don’t have the time or energy to collect stats on this. As I said in my previous post, the only substantive difference between the US and other immigration countries is that the US has been at it for longer. That could perhaps have led to the establishment of more enclaves of minority religions there (as you mention in your post), but it doesn’t explain the religiosity of mainstream Christians in the US. That’s the critical difference here, and I really don’t think your hypothesis is enough to explain it. It may be a factor, but I’m sure there’s a lot more to it.

I guess a good example of what I’m talking about is the Mormons. This is the only major new branch of Christianity to have arisen for centuries. And it arose within the US – it was not imported from elsewhere. This strongly suggests the religiosity of Christians in the US is a native phenomenon.

  
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The original colonists came due to religious intolerance at home. Even with CRS, I don’t remember any of those colonists being open minded, or tolerant, of any other religion within their midst, particularly that of “those heathen savages.”

Over the past week we’ve demonstrated our religiosity through the various Tea Party candidates, loosely aligned with the Republican Party, but with no headquarters, spokesman or major donors. They are almost exclusively white, middle aged or older and Protestant. Very similar to the original colonists. One of their rallying points is: “We want our country back!” That doesn’t say anything positive about our tolerance for people of different faiths or races.

All of the rhetoric around the “Ground Zero Mosque” when their were two mosques inside one of the towers, or the furor over the actions of 50 wackos in Florida, also demonstrate the intolerance of “them,” the ones that are different from “us” – a.k.a. W.A.S.P.s.

Like Akacra said, we may have been at it a bit longer than other countries, but our level of acceptance and tolerance goes only as far as the perception that that there are a lot more of “them” around. Oh yes, there is a great deal more to the issue of the mainstream religiosity of this country; much of it, I am sad to say, I do not agree with, but I recognize that I too have buttons that get pushed now and then. The thing with the current crop of political pawns, a.k.a. combat veterans, their reactions to getting their buttons pushed are 2 or 3 times faster than mine, and far more likely to be violent.

As I said earlier, fighting over religious differences, is a huge waste of resources unless and until you try to force me to comply under threat of torture or death to acquiesce.

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, (where the little old man with all the answers lives) and it matters not which one you choose to take.”

Can we move on to something else? If I may, I’d like to suggest looking at “The Limits To Growth 30-Year Update.”

We have poisoned our planet to the point where we are unlikely to survive the combination of the 80,000+ different man-made chemicals we have created working their way up our food chain.

Speculate on that, if you wish.

As Ban Ki-Moon said it: “Nature does not negotiate.” She didn’t answer the prayers of her chosen ones in Auschwitz, why should things be any different now?

  
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Interesting stuff. I’d like to see the stats played out in the body of the body of the article. These stats have been about for a while and you really help bring them out in context, but I think it came of more as prelude to a blog that could be way more informative. There is a great paper n this concept that no one has really collated cohesively

  
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I’m new here, and found this article and the apparent debate around it pretty interesting to behold. I have nothing to add other than these words from the Dalai Lama:

“Some people automatically associate morality and altruism with a religious vision of the world. But I believe it is a mistake to think that morality is an attribute only of religion. We can imagine two types of spirituality: one tied to religion, while the other arises spontaneously in the human heart as an expression of love for our neighbors and a desire to do them good.”
-Dalai Lama

  
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@JohnnyC – Welcome to my blog JohnnyC! I have to say: if all religious leaders were like the Dalai Lama, I wouldn’t have any major problem with religion at all – just some minor differences of opinion.

  
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Akacra,

Russia has almost 70% of orthodox christians an considerably lower atheist rates than most European countries.

The UK has an pretty high and rising percentage of atheists. ;)

And I am not sure how some of the moderate numbers negate the consistently bad GPI score of the most religious countries and the consistently good GPI score of the most atheist countries.

  
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Akacra,

Actually almost 70% of Russians identify themselves as orthodox christians. It is however true that CHURCH activity is stalling and people remain suspicious of the church. That does not mean they are not religious or mainly atheists, that’s simply not the case.

  
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Sachiko,

Exactely. In Germany for example millions are member of a church but are only christians on paper. Only 10% of Germans actually attend service once in a while. A survey a couple of weeks ago showed that 66% of German catholics don’t give a hoot about what the pope says. That is a pretty good example of how religious even the “religious” people in Germany are.
Being member of a church, which you tend to become by default and tradition, does in no way mean you are religious on Scandinavia and Western Europe.

  
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Thanks for your comments Jen, and welcome to my blog!

  
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Hi!

Just read the first two comments… I don’t really know which Ireland you’re talking about. Approximately 87% of people in Ireland identify as Roman Catholic! Atheists take up only 4.4% of the population. I’m Irish myself (and agnostic) but I’ve always known that Irish is a predominatly Catholic country, it’s not really something the Irish try to keep under wraps…. Fun Fact: Up until a few decades ago it was believed that (at least) one boy from each family should join the priesthood! If you had boys and no one was in the priesthood well… your family would not be well liked.

  
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Hi Eir,

Somehow I missed your comment when you posted it – I am very sorry I didn’t respond back then!

Anyway, I think the difference here is between people who identify with a particular religion for social or political reasons, and those who actually do believe in God. For example, the famously atheistic Scandinavian countries have official state religions that most of the population nominally belong to, but most don’t actually believe in God. The information I’ve seen suggests Ireland has a lesser but still relatively high number of non-believers, although I stand to be corrected if this info is wrong.

  
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Wrong: Religion and abortion – the facts: http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2008/10/religion-and-abortion-facts.html

Highly deceptive video, and the article version which is on about.com: atheists are the ones, who, using their cult of Darwinism propaganda and then the Big Bang (a Catholic invention), push abortions, especially on blacks. Include the 150,000,000 killed by atheist leaders and their minions in the past 100 years, which includes mothers who were pregnant and their babies and little children.

Further, do these statistics take into account THE FACT THAT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE HAVE MORE CHILDREN THAN ATHEISTS AND THAT MANY ATHEISTS HAVE NO KIDS TO ABORT?! HOW ABOUT MURDERS OF ADULTS COMMITTED BY ATHEISTS?

The Bible is right: “let no one among you be godless.”

Let those who seek the truth go to my site http://eternian.wordpress.com. Or read a Bible with traditional commentaries, from a source other than Catholics and Arminians.

Stop being Jezebels women, or end up plastered to the darkness of Hell forever separated from the God of love who made youl.

  
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Top 5 Countries With the Most Atheists/Agnostics http://www.top5ofanything.com/index.php?h=30ffac06

Top 5 Countries with the Highest Total Number of Abortions http://www.top5ofanything.com/index.php?h=eafb416e

Clearly, it’s atheists who are the murderers. Atheists by my estimation murder 7 million people, which includes human babies, every year. Compare that to Muslims, which in my worst estime kill 500,000 a year, not even close. Atheists = murderers.

  
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Daniel Knight,

Your post is a study in either how to deliberately misrepresent statistics, or totally misunderstand them. China only comes out on the top of your comparisons because it has the by far the largest population in the world! To make a meaningful assessment of this issue, any idiot knows you have to look at percentages, not the total numbers. If you do this, you get the following results instead:

The Top 5 Countries with the Highest Proportion of Atheists/Agnostics: http://www.top5ofanything.com/index.php?h=37d618bb

The Top 5 Countries with the Highest Abortion Rates: http://www.top5ofanything.com/index.php?h=63ea75f6

As you can see, there is actually zero correlation between countries with a high proportion of atheists and those with high abortion rates. The only possible exception to this is Vietnam, if unreported abortion statistics can be believed (as such, their accuracy is highly questionable).

Are you really dumb enough to believe the BS you posted, or are you deliberately trying to mislead?

  
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Daniel Knight,

Can you read? The article you cite as ‘evidence’ for your case says the following:

So, what can we conclude from this? Yes, countries that are more religious do indeed have higher abortion rates, and it’s probable that this is because when the religious get hold of the reins of power they introduce policies that lead to more abortion (usually highly dangerous illegal abortions). Why? Because the best way to reduce abortions is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. And the best way to do that is high quality sex eduction and easy access to contraception.

As for murders of adults committed by atheists, I do not know of one single case of anybody being killed in the name of atheism, but millions have been killed in the name of religion and/or God. I don’t know where you pulled that ridiculous 150 million figure from – out of your ass perhaps? And if you read the Bible as you suggest, you will find that the God of the Old Testament was responsible for the genocide of billions of people (including many unborn foetuses), and even innocent animals!

I didn’t bother to put up your comment regarding the killing of infant girls under China’s one child policy (which I agree is a huge social problem), as it has absolutely zero relevance to this article.

  
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Daniel Knight,

If you are stupid enough to believe in the all knowing, all seeing invisable man go for it. Not me! Do you think that if your God was a woman we would be this FUCKED UP? Your parents and grandparents, great grandparents
and on and on pilled up this God Fearing thing on all of you. Wake the “F”up!
I do not recognize Hell since I’m not going some place that does not exist.
So piss off!
Thanks,
Alec

  
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