The correlation between religiosity and well-being among U.S. states

Dr. Harry Roy, a professor of biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, saw my talk on evolution, religion, and science, and societal dysfunction, which proposed not only that antievolutionism in most countries is motivated by religion (duh!), but religion itself is promoted by societal dysfunction, so that those societies with higher levels of income inequality, child mortality, incarceration, and lower levels of health care (all embodied in Greg Paul’s “Successful Societies Scale”) are the most religious. My suggestion was that if we want to promote acceptance of evolution, in the end we have to build healthier societies.

In that talk, I showed a slide from Greg Paul’s work documenting a pronounced (and statistically significant) negative correlation between the degree of religiosity of 17 Western nations (and Japan) and their “success” as measured by the SSS.  This was supported by other studies showing a striking positive relationship between income inequality (as measured by the Gini Index) and each of 12 separate measures of religiosity. A tentative conclusion is that people are more religious when their societies fail to give them the support or feeling of well-being that, for example, is enjoyed by inhabitants of countries like Sweden and Denmark.

Anyway, Harry found some relevant data in the United States, crunched the numbers, and did a statistical analysis.  He left comments and a link to the analysis, after my post.  And he’s kindly done a bit more analysis and allowed me to reproduce it here.  What he found is precisely the same relationship among states (using the HDI) as I found among countries: American states with lower HDIs are more religious.

First, a portrait of American religiosity taken from a 2009 Gallup poll:

As we know, the south is really religious (just go there if you doubt that!), and the northeast and west coast states much less so.

And below is a national map of the Human Development Index (HDI) from WikipediaThis index is a measure of societal well being that differs from the “Successful Societies Scale” (SSS) that I used in my talk at Harvard.  The HDI uses a set of traits that differ from those used in the SSS: the former amalgamates three traits (life expectancy, education, and income), while the latter combines 25 traits, including corruption, income disparity, child mortality, access to medical care, suicide rates, and so on.  Unlike the SSS, under which the U.S. ranks very low among first-world nations, the HDI places the U.S. at the top when the index is not adjusted for inequality among residents, but falls much lower when adjusted for inequality (see the Wikipedia article on the HDI at link above).  The disparity may be due to the inclusion of income inequality in the adjusted HDI; income inequality is highly positively correlated with religiosity across 71 nations.

The south is not so great here, the northeast (and two states on the west coast) are better.  That suggests a relationship between religiosity and well being as measured by the HDI.

After crunching the data, Dr. Roy produced this correlation between the religiosity of the 50 states and their ranking on the HDI:

 As you see, we have the same negative relationship between well-being and religiosity that we saw for different countries of the West. The correlation here is r= – 0.66897, and the probability (“p”) that this correlation would arise by chance is p = 0.00000012. (A value of p less than 0.05 is conventionally used to show a significant relationship.)  This relationship, then, is not only striking but very highly significant in a statistical sense. Harry put a least-squares regression line through the data; its slope is also highly significant.

Why the correlation? Again, it could mean—but I am not pushing this interpretation as dogma—that people tend to either become more religious or retain a historical religiosity in areas where they are not very well off.   There may also be ethnic differences that contribute to this (the population of blacks in America is concentrated in the south, for instance, and educational attainment is lower in general), but education itself is likely negatively correlated with indices of well being, and poverty is a component of both the HDI and SSS.  Although I’m not a Marxist, Marx may have gotten it right when he said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Finally, here’s another figure, which I’ve reproduced before, on the correlation between poverty and religiosity:

Figure from The New York Times


67 Comments

  1. Steve Smith
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    religion itself is promoted by societal dysfunction

    And societal dysfunction is promoted by religion, a postive feedback loop that is consistent with a statistically significant correlation between these factors.

  2. Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Is it not the case that education has a negative correlation with religiosity? I was raised in a highly religious family and I think that going to college had a big effect on my abandonment of religion.

  3. herewegoagain
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    “There may also be ethnic differences that contribute to this (the population of blacks in America is concentrated in the south…”

    Yes, when I was an evangelical and heard studies like this one, white evangelicals acquaintances (I’m black) would point to statistics on black crime, out of wedlock births, etc. to demonstrate that these statistics were really about African Americans, not the dysfunction of (white) religious people as a whole.

  4. Daniel Cadena
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Interesting pattern. But be careful about the statistical analysis. A correlation analysis as the one shown here requires that data points be independent of one another. Here, one could argue such independence is not met, as one could reasonably argue that religiosity in, say, Alabama, is not independent of religiosity in, say, Georgia. Looking at the first map, it is clear that religiosity shows a clear spatial pattern, implying non-independence of data. This same problem of using political units as statistically independent replicates when they are not also applies to worldwide analyses referred to before (i.e., the situation in one Scandinavian country is quite unlikely to be independent of that in another Scandinavian country). One could account for this problem controlling for spatial autocorrelation, and I suspect that the relationships will likely hold, but beware of P-values and r-values when a central assumption of the analysis is not met.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      Yes, I recognize this, and believe that in my Evolution paper where I show similar data, I note that the points are non-independent. Still, the pattern is shown in many different studies across both states and nations, so I think it’s real.

    • hossiet
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly. Spatial autocorrelation can dissolve these trends. A colleague of mine reanalyzed published data on the international variation in IQ and the associated predictors but found a different set of relationships upon accounting for the lack of independence. He wrote a great post on this topic:

      http://katatrepsis.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/international-variation-in-iq-the-role-of-parasites/

    • chascpeterson
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      well, and also the coordinates and least-squares regression line shown assume and imply that religion is the causal variable (and was measured without error), while Dr. Coyne’s commentary favors the opposite hypothesis.
      Suggestion: switch axes and use RMA regression.

    • EN
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I’m so pleased that my seven measly credits of stats and research methods have cracked open a new language for me :-) lol.

      How might one control for spatial autocorrelation?

  5. stevehayes13
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I cannot but find it amusing that you apparently feel the need to point out that you are not a Marxist, when you mention Marx.

    Whilst it is, of course, highly fashionable to deny that one is a Marxist, nevertheless, in the relevant social sciences (History, Sociology, Economics, qua Economic History) almost all serious scholars take it as read that the material conditions of a social formation are determinants, which is fundamentally a Marxist insight. The only issue is how much weight to attribute to material conditions vis-a-vis ideological factors. An issue that Marx was well aware of and which he considered could only be resolved by a detailed study of the particular circumstances.

    The implication of this is that it is possible that in some societies religiosity is a response to social dysfunction and insecurity and in other societies religiosity is a cause of social dysfunction. I would see the US as falling into the first category and Saudi Arabia into the latter.

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      “The implication of this is that it is possible that in some societies religiosity is a response to social dysfunction and insecurity and in other societies religiosity is a cause of social dysfunction.”

      Is it possible somehow to infer causality in either direction from the data?

      • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        As Steve Smith pointed out:

        “And societal dysfunction is promoted by religion, a postive feedback loop that is consistent with a statistically significant correlation between these factors.”

        So I guess it’s entirely possible, even likely, that each “causes” the other.

        • stevehayes13
          Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

          Any social scientist who as a methodological rule stopped at the stage of ‘each “causes” the other’ would not be a social scientist.

          • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

            Well I guess you’ve got me pegged as not a social scientist — and you’re right. But as an engineer I’m pretty familiar with feedback loops, and in such systems it can be hard to identify what’s causing what.

            Is there some way to tease causality out of the religiosity-social dysfunction correlation?

            • stevehayes13
              Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

              If you mean is there a rule or method that can be applied, which would provide a definitive outcome? The answer is no. One could attempt to determine the causes and their relative weights by historical analysis of each particular social formation. The outcome would always be a judgement.

              One could also attempt to use social formations that were similar as comparators, which is what the post does. And it is why the post uses social dysfunction measures, rather than GDP per capita, which would be misleading.

              The data the post draws on shows that it is not wealth or lack there of that causes religiosity. It also shows that religiosity is not the cause of wealth or lack there of. However, it does show that religiosity is highly correlated with income inequality. And this offers an oblique way of attempting to determine the cause, as high levels of income inequality are highly correlated with all forms of social dysfunction. The more economically unequal a society, the higher the level of all measures of social dysfunction. The implication of this is that religion is a symptom of social dysfunction.

              However, I go back to my original point about having to examine each particular society historically because if religious leaders had the capacity to regulate everyday social practices, it would be those ideological factors that were determining material circumstances.

      • stevehayes13
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        I did not say from the data presented in this post. I was referring to the relative weight to be ascribed to material vis-a-vis ideological factors. And I said that could only be determined by a detailed study of the particular circumstances in each social formation.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        I don’t think that finding which is the cause of the other is all that important. Both are undesirable conditions and attempts to eliminate both can raise the well-being of a society AND make it depend more on reason, logic and thought driving it toward enlightenment.

      • J Ascher
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        I would suggest, based on my social sciences background in communication science and social services, that social dysfunction leads to the creation or expression of religious fervor.

        Religiosity is expressed because of social disequilibrium. Religion is an outlet for discontent with social structures – finding something to relieve the discomfort found in social situations even if the relief is self-delusional. Being based on the social conditions, the religious expression feeds on that basis even when social conditions improve. This is all the more so when the religious structure is judgmental.

    • Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      If I made a comment about vampires I might add that I’m not one myself. The fact that I do that doesn’t invalidate my statement.

  6. jay
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    I am puzzled by the obsession with the relative income difference, kind of an income jealousy thing. Mencken said: Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.

    But the obsession is real. Testing in which people have the option of ‘bringing down’ the ‘richer’ players at a cost to themselves, a significant number would actually be willing to lower their own (and those like them) well being to lower the wealth of the higher players.

    Personally this seems like an incredibly stupid strategy (I really don’t care how many ‘Bill Gates’ are out there) but I guess there is a psychological component to that. I do not, however, believe that society or government should cater to that mindset.

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      The issue isn’t income disparity for its own sake, but the underlying cause of income disparity. For example, Mitt Romney, without lifting a finger, took in over $22 Million per year for each of the last two years. The money didn’t earn itself. Those actually performing work were “taxed”, as it were, to come up with it. Since this isn’t the governemtal tax Romney so opposes, i.e., the sort paying for infrastructure and social safety nets, these same relatively poor workers must pay Romney’s share of those taxes, as well. So, the income earned by the poorest sectors of American citizenry trickle upward to the very rich who then claim they made it all on their own and so deserve every cent and then some (that some, or sum, being tne benefit of lower taxes than real workers).

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        Your analysis with regard to income is probably correct, but I have also noticed a similar pattern about educational disparity.

        Often the religious want to “bring down” people who are educated. Witness Santorum’s diatribes about education.

        Do you have any idea where that might come from? L

        • stevehayes13
          Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          In theocratic Europe, i.e., when it was perfectly possible to be completely honest about religious attitudes, Luther’s pronouncements on reason perfectly illustrate the religious view. He denounced reason as the devil’s whore and demanded that it be stamped out. And he expressed these views precisely because he saw that reason was inimical to faith.

        • Tim
          Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          I think it comes from having listened for forty years to the argument that “we should just worry about making the pie bigger, not about taking away someone else’s slice”. The American people bought this line, experienced decades of decent average economic growth, the economic benefits of which went to the segment of society that had the biggest piece to begin with.

          The trickle-down argument is not supported by experience. The idea that the middle class and the poor want to “bring down the rich” is belied by the fact that they’ve listened and largely accepted the trickle-down argument even as the facts have not supported it – so the premise of Jay’s comment is mostly baloney.

          • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            The saddest part of all is that wealth did “trickle down.” Had it flowed naturally, without governmental protection of the wealth of the rich over the poor, there wouldn’t be today’s disparity.

            • Filippo
              Posted September 30, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

              I have a vision of a group of thirsty flesh-and-blood human beings – whoops! I mean “resources” and “capital” (don’t want to offend an capitalist theorists) – jostling around and under a spigot, attempting to obtain a sufficiency of “trickling” water, contemplating the “trick” for making it “trickle” a little more fully, and wondering whether they have somehow been “tricked” into accepting this “trickle down” stuff.

              Who was the political economist/philosopher who came up with this “trickle down” idea?

              When does a flow turn into a “trickle”? The top 1% are motivated, are they not, to reduce that trickle as much as they can? How noble, how edifying. Is this attitude one of those “American Values” that the 1% especially deem worth perserving, protecting and defending by sending the flower of our youth in harm’s way to be killed or maimed for life?

          • jay
            Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            “Bringing down the rich” seldom seems to have worked out well, other than making a good mantra for those who believe that somehow other peoples success (whether deserved or not) is holding them back. It’s the politics of envy. The product of Bill Gates billions has made my career possible.

            Productivity is the only thing that actually raises the overall wealth of a society, and forces which improve productivity improve real wealth as a whole.

            • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

              Yes, and if the hardworking poor are out of bread, well then, let them eat cake!

        • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the leaders of Christianity made sure only they knew how to read. Not just how to read and therefore interpret their bible, but read anything at all, period. (That is, except for the Jews, who insisted on educating their children, but they were Christ-killers, the fallen chosen, who were graciously allowed by their Christian hosts to survive as long as they suffered for it.)

          For the current religious right to suggest education is worthless, arrogant, and otherwise a bad thing is to inculcate pride in ignorance — the more ignorant, the more proud. Those at the top realize only their offspring will truly be educated, while those not quite at the top and all beneath them are sheeples, following along like good little martyrs to their own and their families’ and communities’ destruction.

          I just voted against two of them for our local school board, yesterday, voting for the two pro-evolution people running against them.

          Were I a believer, I’d claim they’re refusing to use the brains god gave them.

    • stevehayes13
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      You appear to be talking about the ultimatum game. If you are, you are misusing it in the context of this post and the correlation to demonstrates.

      There are very sound reasons why people would reject a low offer: they reflect our evolution as social animals. The rejection of a low offer in the context of an on-going relationship, allows and encourages the person making the low offer to recognise their anti-social behaviour and to adopt a pro-social position.

      Your final comment seems to imply a rejection of democracy.

      • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        Perhaps you should wait until night, reread my post, sleep on it, and then read it, again, come morning. That is the best way to absorb something you don’t understand.

        • stevehayes13
          Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          My reply which begins ‘You appear to be talking about the ultimatum game’ is a reply to jay.

          • stevehayes13
            Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

            Cool.

      • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        Correction with apology to stevehayes13: I thought your comment was in response to my own.

      • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        The rejection of a low offer actually still fits the Ultimatum Game. The reasons you give are consistent with the sequential version of the game in which it is in your interest to turn down low offers because the offerer loses money faster than you and quickly learns his lesson. You make your “lost” money back quickly. This version does fit well with the type of sequential and small group transactions we would have evolved in, and also provides the justification for why in larger groups we are best off with government or union intervention in the transaction. See here for a discussion on the topic: http://adnausi.ca/post/4289048927

      • jay
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        My comment on this was to the ‘correction’ that was applied to the HDI score to ‘correct’ for the income disparity difference… seems people score pretty well unless we arbitrarily factor in income disparity because we just don’t like that.

        That is an ideologically driven correction.

    • Achrachno
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      Wealth = power. When the power is controlled by a few, social disfunction is the result. It becomes the opposite of democracy and a caricature of a free market.

    • Tim
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      I am puzzled by the suggestion that one would not include income disparity among the important factors correlated with social dysfunction.

      • Marta
        Posted May 13, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        This.

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      jay, the income disparity thing is not a jealousy thing. It has legitimate economic problems.

      First, any economy where the wealth gets concentrated in too few hands will eventually collapse. It is a similar problem to monopolies. Those few who own most of the wealth get to set the conditions upon which everyone else gets to earn their money. It becomes less free and effectively a form of slavery. While there may be nominal choice, if all the choices are controlled by a few people with private interests, who are unaccountable to the public, there is no real choice.

      This is not in the interests of the vast majority of people, and therefore in a democracy you should expect voters and their reps to act to make sure disparity doesn’t get out of hand.

      Second, the means by which rich get richer is a mix of three factors that are inseparable. Statistically speaking, working harder and smarter will get you richer over someone who doesn’t. But that’s not always true. Chance plays a big role too, often being in the right place at the right time, or conversely the wrong one. In a democracy, it is in our best interest to even out the random part.

      The final factor is that the rich can and do get richer by exploiting the form of transaction via the Ultimatum Game. The details are here: http://adnausi.ca/post/4289048927

      The short version is that they get to control the opportunities to generate wealth and so can dictate the terms of how it gets divided even if it is all generated by the labourers. (Wealth is, by definition, the excess output of labour over the input required to generate it.) There is no “fairness” in this and the vast majority of people benefit by collectively forcing a better sharing of the generated wealth. In a democracy, the interests of the vast majority are what set policy.

      Of course you can’t go too far with dividing it either. The opposite extreme is just as bad. There is a “sweet spot” range of income disparity over which prosperity for most is maximized.

  7. Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Nice piece, Jerry. As we approach the general election campaign, I am reminded of then-candidate Obama’s “gaffe”. About guns and religion during the 2008 campaign. The data shown here don’t address the issue of guns, but I think it quite reasonable to expect gun ownership would fall right into line. It is a sad commentary on the Satan of modern political discourse when a candidate is pilloried for making statements based on observation and analysis, rather than on pure political expediency.

  8. Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Hmmm… I can see the world faiths engineering a major disaster ala The Watchmen so that faith once again becomes ascendant. But that is only the stuff of science fiction or satire, right?

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Are the data points weighted by their errors and why?

    How are errors estimated for such data?

    how are the number of people represented? So if you had to teach evolution to Those data points. There’s some good TED talks on this.

    Also when will JAC’s paper be available in full?

  10. Mark Plus
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I notice from the graph with the spheres that despite all the fundamentalist ignorance in the U.S. about Israel’s alleged “prophetic” significance, Israel’s religiosity falls into the neighborhood of the other social-democratic countries where people have lost interest in religion.

  11. Notagod
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Unlike the SSS, under which the U.S. ranks very low among first-world nations, the HDI places the U.S. at the top when the index is not adjusted for inequality among residents, but falls much lower when adjusted for inequality (see the Wikipedia article on the HDI at link above). The disparity may be due to the inclusion of income inequality in the unadjusted HDI; income inequality is highly positively correlated with religiosity across 71 nations.

    Jerry, since unadjusted HDI is silent regarding income inequality. Did you intend exclusion instead of inclusion?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      yep, mistake. Fixed, thanks.

  12. Posted May 13, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    As always, a great deal of value added by Jerry.

    • Achrachno
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your work on this!

  13. JamesPro95
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Just a weird observation – take it for what it’s worth. Religion as opiate of the masses – this would be a bad thing of course. A drug addiction to ameliorate one’s inability to function in the world is not exactly a great strategy. Is religion an opiate or is it more like a way of thinking about one’s station in life – a means of influencing one’s thinking about the current circumstances he or she is in and which cannot be immediately changed. Similar to cognitive behavioural therapy’s focus on changing how a person responds to a situation by challenging their ‘distorted’ or ‘dysfunctional’ thoughts (REBT vs CBT anyway). It’s funny that I am arguing for this since I love science and I am very very wary of anything religious whatsoever – but I am also interested in psychology and our less than rational way of dealing with the world. Anyway – I don’t want to promote beliefs that are simply panaceas if they are not an accurate view of the world, but thinking deeply is a cost too and some people don’t want to engage in questioning, being skeptical etc. but just want to function in very difficult times the best they can (and so perhaps they should not talk about science, establishing evidence, critical thinking etc.) Anyway, again, it’s weird that I am sort of supporting religion as a psychological coping mechanism when my heroes are: Einstein, Carl Sagan, Darwin, Lakatos, Popper and not-Kuhn! Eliot Aronson, Richard Dawkins… Of course, I am assuming there is one direction in this – poor environmental/economic/social circumstances leads to religious or ‘wishful or magical’ thinking. I’d appreciate it if someone can show that the converse of that is true, than I would think differently about what I said above. Have a great day!

  14. Notagod
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Just to give a little perspective of financial compensation in the United States.

    From the AFLCIO

    The average CEO pay of companies in the S&P 500 Index rose to $12.94 million in 2011. Overall, the average level of CEO pay in the S&P 500 Index increased 13.9 percent in 2011, following a 22.8 percent increase in CEO pay in 2010.

    That’s $13 million (average!) disgusting christian god bucks each year! They go out and play golf, during the week, for work. While the workers are preparing the presentations that the CEOs get credit for.

    Check out how this has been going over the last few decades

    In the past several decades, the difference between the compensation of corporate chief executives and the pay earned by the average employee has increased dramatically. In 1960, the average chief executive earned 40 times as much as the average worker. By 1990, the average CEO earned 107 times as much. In the following decade, this ratio rose to 525:1 before settling back to 301:1 in 2003. Various sources give slightly different ratios, but all are in general agreement that the ratio of executive compensation to the pay of ordinary workers has grown dramatically over the past four decades.

    There is no magic in why the Koch brothers, The Templeton Foundation and others want to keep the United States christianized.

    • Tim
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      ..and when their bubbles burst, and the entire system’s stability is threatened, they get bailed out, but miraculously “return to profitably” in a year or two. Then comes the propaganda that they’re “job creators” and that their compensation is “earned”, accompanied by worries about “fiscal discipline” that necessitates slashing of “entitlements” and schools.

  15. Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The Hitler as Atheist Straw Man Lie – off topic but valuable.

    Useful new information on Hitler’s state of mind from Cambridge:

    “Hitler is caught up in a web of religious delusions,” MacCurdy concluded. “The Jews are the incarnation of Evil, while he is the incarnation of the Spirit of Good. He is a god by whose sacrifice victory over Evil may be achieved. He does not say this in so many words, but such a system of ideas would rationalise what he does say that is otherwise obscure.”

    Full article. Stunning commentary on the horror of ideology and “…the appalling repercussions Hitler’s mental state was to have…” This is why fighting ideologies and cults of personality are critical.

    Full article: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/inside-hitlers-mind/

  16. Bob Carlson
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    If it is even possible, a county-by-county, as opposed to state-by-state, analysis of religiosity would paint a somewhat different picture. Southern Virginia is vastly more religious than the northern part of the state, where the proximity to Washington and the federal government has resulted in a the populace consisting of significant numbers of educated immigrants from other states and their offspring. Of course, Jefferson and Madison were southern Virginians that were very enlightened in their own times, but they would probably be rolling over in their graves if they were able to contemplate the current situation. For example, Jefferson had a great interest in the Natural Bridge and hoped that it would become a public trust (Jefferson’s indebtedness at the end of his life may be what prevented that wish from coming to fruition). If you visit the Natural Bridge, you will have an opportunity to witness its Drama of Creation. I haven’t witnessed the event, but I picked up a copy of the program. Each of the seven days of creation is represented by readings from Genesis accompanied by classical music of composers including Rossini, Debussy, Wagner, Grieg, Saint Saëns, and Liszt. Of course, some of those composers were very enlightened sorts and might be amazed to find their music being used as background for biblical nonsense. Naturally, the seventh day brings the program to a close; there is a musical selection “In a Monastery Garden” by Ketelby, followed by a recessional comprised of the traditional hymns, “God Be with You” and “Holy, Holy, Holy.” If that’s not enough to satisfy, you can visit the Natural Bridge Wax Museum and find representations of various famous persons, real and imagined, beginning with Adam and Eve in The Garden with their wax animals and ending with a representation of da Vinci’s Last Supper. In a brief video accompanying a Roanoke Times article about the wax museum, the speaker says “we start out with the Garden of Eden, cause we are in the Bible Belt,” and he explains how this ties in with the Seven Days of Creation of the Bridge light show. There is a YouTube video of the museum’s Last Supper Presentation that will surely make you a believer, if you aren’t already. :)

    Speaking in biogeographical terms, there also appears to be relict of the Bible Belt in western Michigan. If you Google Grand Rapids ministry, you will get “About 7,980,000 results.” At the top of the list you will find Mel Trotter Ministries, RBC Ministries, The Other Way Ministries, DeGage Ministries (a safe, Christian alternative to the streets), Safe Haven Ministries, et al. About 150 miles north of Grand Rapids, there is Benzie County, one of the poorer counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, which is heavily reliant on tourism. The county is festooned with churches ranging from the traditional to the “interdemoninational,” such as the Living Waters Christian Center (does not concern water-dwelling microorganisms). It seems that virtually every issue of the county’s weekly newspaper will have an account of the activities of an organization named Benzie Area Christian Neighbors, which collects money to support things like food pantries. The paper also reports concerning food pantries sponsored by individual church organizations. Just to the north, in Leelanau County, there may be a slight decrease in piety; in a small book store there, I encountered an interesting little volume titled The God Awful Truth About Heaven. As you might guess, the author lives in Chicago.

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      “Of course, Jefferson and Madison were southern Virginians that were very enlightened in their own times, but they would probably be rolling over in their graves if they were able to contemplate the current situation.”
      Don’t you know? That’s what caused the east coast earth quake, just last year! Look at it’s ground zero proximity to Jefferson’s resting place (maybe Madison’s, too), and it’s reach in terms of historic centers of government!

  17. Kamizushi
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Keep in mind if you only take into account the USA that a possible source of the correlation could be “being in the bible belt”. That neighboring states share similarities like their level of poverty and their religiosity is to be expected.

  18. KP
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived in Oklahoma and now in non-urban Washington state. I guess that gives me a distorted view of Washington’s score on the religiosity scale – I would have guessed more religious overall and wouldn’t have thought Seattle (with Pastor Mark Driscoll and the Discovery Institute) compensated as much as it appears to have. A town 10 miles up the road from me is as bat-shit-insane fundamentalist as anything I saw in Oklahoma.

  19. Posted May 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    §

  20. Rob
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Why is Australia never on these graphs? As a melting pot of cultures we should be an interesting data point.

    Rob

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      I assumed that Australia was on there as one of the unlabeled points. But, now that I look at it again, there are no points in about the right area that are about the right size…

  21. Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I found some indications that this idea of an inverse correlation between economic development and religiosity is actually fairly well established among sociologists. (We tread on blazed trails). Here is a link to my post on this: http://wp.me/p20XCb-3S

  22. Posted May 14, 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    “[Religion] is the opium of the people.” —Karl Marx

    “Opium is the religion of the people.” —Groucho Marx

  23. Posted May 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    The data file is available at my blog. Feel free to fiddle with it.

    Harry

  24. Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Jerry:

    Loved your Harvard talk and this follow-up email so much that we included mention of it on our Blog at:

    http://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2012/05/why-belief-in-evolution-is-so-low-in-us.html

    Glenn

  25. Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Have any studies identified say Gender inequality, then accounted for purported confounders like poor-socio economic status of the most religious countries by stratification against the U.S. which has high levels of religiosity, good socio-economic status and poor gender equality?

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      I am not sure I understand your question, but I am pretty sure my answer is “I don’t know”. Jerry has done a lot more reading on this than I have and he has made several posts that explore the relationship between religiosity and other factors.


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] The correlation between religiosity and well-being among U.S. states | Why Evolution Is True. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. [...] another set of statistics upholds the negative effects of religion on public well-being. This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  3. [...] Why Evolution Is True  Harry found some relevant data in the United States, crunched the numbers, and did a statistical analysis. He left comments and a link to the analysis, after my post. And he’s kindly done a bit more analysis and allowed me to reproduce it here. What he found is precisely the same relationship among states (using the HDI) as I found among countries: American states with lower HDIs [Human Development Index scores] are more religious. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  4. [...] to the fact that as belief in religion declines the measure of education and wealth increases (see this blog entry by Jerry Coyne). This should not be controversial in itself. After all, the scripture says “it is easier for a [...]

  5. [...] comprehensive study that showed that religion, social stratification, and societal dysfunction are inherently linked, but which causes which is as yet unknown. Does society-wide religion cause economic inequalities, [...]

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