Colin Harris (Dec. 15) contends that “Faith with God as lord” is more effective than secular humanism for improving societal behavior. A comprehensive analysis of the influence of religion on societal well-being in developed countries shows otherwise.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion and Society found that adverse parameters such as rates of lethal crime, rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion are commonly higher in countries with higher rates of theism than they are in the more secular democracies.
Three of these democracies with the lowest levels of God worship – Japan, France and Scandinavia – have the best records in this regard. Unfortunately, the United States, which has the highest level of religiosity among the developed nations, ranks among the lowest countries regarding societal health. Domestically, the adverse indicators are higher in the strongly theistic South and Midwest than they are in the more secular regions such as the Northeast.
Harris attempts to make the case that religion exerts a more positive moral influence than secular humanism. Nonetheless, the evidence shows that in developed democracies it is theistic belief, not secularism, that falls short of promoting well-functioning societies.