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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Science of Religion

Gregory S. Paul has a wonderful website, The Science of Religion, which may well be worth putting in your bookmarks. Do check it out. It's a very thorough resource if you're looking for information about how more religious societies compare to less religious ones on what are usually thought of as indicators of social well-being. (Yes, "well-being" is a vague concept, and no single indicator is going to be perfect or even uncontroversial. All the same, the relatively religious USA does poorly against a raft of indicators that even evangelical Christians are likely to regard as highly relevant to social health. The relatively irreligious countries of Western Europe do far better.)

As you dig deeper into the site, there is plentiful information as well as clearly argued opinion pieces.

It's often been claimed that religion is necessary for social stability and harmony, but the data don't bear that out at all. It may not be possible to come to a clear conclusion, but, putting it mildly, there is no indication at all that a decline in traditional religious belief causes social dysfunction. There are always extraneous variables that can't be controlled, so some epistemic modesty is called for here ... but, superficially, the data seem to point in precisely the opposite direction.

This is not a surprise - I think the overall trend is pretty familiar by now - but it's fascinating to see a site devoted to the question, with many links and citations that you can follow up. At the level of whole societies, it's pretty clearly time to leave God behind.

4 comments:

Darrick Lim said...

Wow. A veritable gold mine. Duly linked to. Thanks Russell.

David said...

It's definitely a resource I plan on making use of in the future for my own blogging and research but gee the site could do with some redesign to make things easier on the ol' peepers.

Glendon Mellow said...

This is the same Greg Paul that has gone so completely off the rails at the paleo-art and scientific illustration community lately?

A couple of links on the issue:
Art in the service of science: You get what pay for - Scientific American Guest Blog

The Great Debate - Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs

I'll try as hard as possible to check out the link with an objective lens.

David M said...

The Science of Religion site is very interesting. Even just the home page essay. A few assertions in there that I was pretty amazed by, but still, interesting. And it apeears to have a gold mine of links to worthwhile articles and studies. Almost too much.

And cheers to Glendon, that stuff about paleoartists was actually fascinating!