I just briefly skimmed over an article called Atheism: a threat to civilization from Father Alphonse de Valk of Catholic Insight. It’s your typical anti-Atheist scare piece, calling up the specters of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and …
Wait a minute, they mentioned Hitler? As an atheist? Wow, that’s a surprise. I’m sure it would surprise him, too, seeing how he was a devout Catholic. Not that his religious beliefs are even relevant. Most of the atrocities carried out in the Holocaust were done by thousands of other good old-fashioned, God-fearing German citizens. Unless, of course, de Valk is insinuating that each and every person in Germany at the time was an atheist, I think he would do well to avoid mention of Hitler.
(On another note, what’s up with this obsession over comparing body counts? You’d think that, if a religious belief lead to a blameless moral standard, there would not be any kills under the Catholic church’s column in the ledger.)
The author of this article would do well to attend to the results of a study performed by his fellow Catholics at Creighton: the one called Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look. The study examined the varieties of religious belief in much of the first world, as well as the degree of devotion of the religious people, and compared them to various quantifiable variables – infant mortality, abortion, murder rates, et cetera.
Contrary to the thesis of Father de Valk’s article, the conclusion of the study was comprised of two major points:
- Increased levels of religious belief and increased religious fervor correlate to increases in the negative measures of societal health. To wit:
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional … The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. Youth suicide is an exception to the general trend because there is not a significant relationship between it and religious or secular factors. No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional. None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction. In some cases the highly religious U.S. is an outlier in terms of societal dysfunction from less theistic but otherwise socially comparable secular developed democracies. In other cases, the correlations are strongly graded, sometimes outstandingly so.
If the data showed that the U.S. enjoyed higher rates of societal health than the more secular, pro-evolution democracies, then the opinion that popular belief in a creator is strongly beneficial to national cultures would be supported. Although they are by no means utopias, the populations of secular democracies are clearly able to govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in the first world with a similarly large body of data – a doubtful possibility in view of the observable trends.
Ouch. So much for atheism being dangerous, eh? Oh, and also…
There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.
I think this nicely refutes the entire article from Father de Valk, papal quotes, scriptural references, and all.
But don’t expect a retraction from someone like this. He’s not interested in facts, only in the promotion of fearmongering.