Religiosity, Morality, Society, Dysfunction

I was reading this article by the religious scholar D.M. Murdock.

She was writing about Gregory S. Paul.  He is a respected paleontologist, but Murdock was writing about his analysis of data correlating religiosity and societal dysfunction.  Here are two papers he wrote.

He considered multiple factors (from the first link):

Religiosity – “absolute belief in a supernatural creator deity (a superior measure of religious devotion than general belief in God because the latter includes partial doubters), Bible literalism (a proxy for the conservatism of mass faith), frequent attendance at religious services and frequency of prayer that measure religious activity, belief in an afterlife, agnostics and atheists, and acceptance of human descent from animals which is also a measure of creationist opinion”
Societal dysfunction – “homicide, incarceration, juvenile mortality, lifespan, adolescent and all age gonorrhea and syphilis infections, adolescent abortion, adolescent births, youth and all age suicide, fertility, marriage, marriage duration, divorce, life satisfaction, alcohol consumption, corruption, income, income disparity, poverty, employment, work hours and resource exploitation base”

There have been some critics of Paul’s analysis.  Even though his analysis emphasizes correlation over causation, the authors of the following article seem to focus their criticism on the causation angle.

The authors say there is no clear relationship between either religion or secularism and moral behavior.  This isn’t really much of a criticism as it still undermines the commonsense view that religion obviously supports morality, and so this criticism seems to support Paul’s general view or at least not be in direct conflict with it.

More interesting is the analysis of Gary F. Jensen who is also responding to Paul, but using a different criticsm.

Jensen concludes that it’s important which details one considers.  Speaking about religiosity alone is too general, and so doesn’t allow clear and accurate conclusions.  His research demonstrates that religious cultures that show dysfunction (e.g., United States) are those that emphasize negative religious convictions such as belief in the Devil and Hell.  Religious cultures that emphasize a good God or a positive/peaceful relationship with the divine don’t have these high levels of societal dysfunction.


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