Christian Today gives the wrong answer to question of why are less wealthy countries more religious?

The Telegraph gives some new data from a Pew survey on how people in various countries feel about religion. The one graph shown depicts the percentage of people from 40 countries who say that religion is “very important in their lives.” Here it is:

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The good news is that countries like the UK and Australia are getting more and more like Scandinavia in their levels of nonbelief. As the Torygraph says, “Only 21% of people in the UK said religion was very important in their lives. The only countries which care about religion less are Russia, China, South Korea, France, Japan and China.” (Note that they didn’t survey Scandinavian countries.)

What I also see in that graph is a negative relationship between religiosity and societal well-being, with the least religious countries being, in general, First World nations or ones that are better off, while the most religious nations are poor countries in Asia, the Middle East, or sub-Saharan Africa. This is part of a general negative relationship between the “success” of a society and its religiosity, one quantified by Greg Paul in a paper in 2009. The relationship isn’t perfect, of course, as countries like Vietnam, Russia, and China show a historical legacy of non-religiosity based on a Communist past.

Nevertheless, here’s Paul’s relationship among 17 First World nations between the religiosity of a nation and its societal well being (measured on a “successful societies scale” ranging from 0 [absymal failure as a society] to 10 [highly successful society]. The names of the countries (with the large letters used on the graph) are given below:

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The “U” stands for the U.S., which has a has a high religiosity and yet low success as a society. That’s because the U.S. ranks low on some of the indicators of “success”: free medical care, child mortality, homicide rates, abortions, proportion of people incarcerated, and so on. And if you were to add countries in the Middle East and Africa to this graph, the negative relationship would be even more striking. Being highly religious and low in societal success, those nations would fall in the lower right of the graph.

The possible explanations for this relationship are several. More religious societies could simply be ones that don’t impel their members to make them “successful” using the measures Paul incorporates. Alternatively, societies that are less successful for other reasons might promote religiosity in their members, as religious people might turn to God when they can’t depend on their neighbors and government (the “Karl Marx” explanation). Or both of these could apply. Or there could be unmeasured covariates that really explain the relationship.

A lot of data, though, supports the “Marx” explanation: people become more religious, or stay that way, when their living conditions are poor or they perceive themselves as disadvantaged. This is supported by a wealth of sociological data that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, but I’ll add one fact that suggests the direction of the causation. Income inequality—a huge aspect of how well people think they’re doing—fluctuates over time in the U.S. And religiosity fluctuates with it, but a year behind! That is, when income inequality (as measured by the GINI index goes up), religiosity goes up a year later. Ditto when income inequality falls. This suggests that people become more religious when they perceive that their well-being is dropping, and vice versa.

At any rate, many sociologists agree with this interpretation. But of course, Christians don’t, as they’d like to see piety as the result of recognizing the “truths” there is a god and a heaven, and not simply as a reaction to a bad situation.

So, when the site Christian Today looked at the data above, they saw something completely different. In a piece called “Why are people in rich countries less religious?”, author Andy Walton gets pretty close to the Marxist interpretation, but somehow manages to completely recast it (my emphasis):

While richer countries have more access to material goods, which make people feel more satisfied, it appears that people find more ‘meaning’ in religious faith.

In an Atlantic article looking at some psychological research on this phenomenon, the author said, “The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and the perceived meaning in its citizen’s lives… it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning.

In other words, there may be something psychologically significant about a belief in the transcendent which offers more meaning to people than wealth – in spite of the good things wealth can provide.

What Walton is doing here is making a virtue of necessity: people in poor societies, he says, find religion rather than goods as their source of meaning. That may well be true, but the important question is this: given access to any society they want, would these impoverished people still choose their poor but religious societies rather than the richer and more atheistic ones? Given the flow of immigrants from the former lands to the latter, I think the answer is clear. People aren’t valuing religion over goods because that reflects their innate preferences; they’re doing it because it’s the only thing they can do! They want that material well being!

Walton ends his piece with a slap at atheism:

So, what can we learn from these figures overall? I suspect there’s a different lesson depending on where we sit on the faith spectrum.

We are one of the richest countries in the world, yet English children are some of the unhappiest in the world. Atheist progressives should realise that a society which doesn’t as a whole take religion very seriously isn’t necessarily a better society.

Yes, but in general it’s a better society. As always, societies that don’t take religion very seriously tend to be the most successful societies. And as for the relationship between religiosity and happiness, take a gander at the 25 “happiest” countries in the world and, below them, the 25 “unhappiest” countries, all from a survey of 156 countries (data from the 2013 World Happiness Report, free online).  First note that, contra Walton, Britain is #22 out of 156, so it’s not doing too badly. (h/t to reader “infiniteimprobability” for pointing me to the updated data.)

I haven’t run the stats on these, but I’ll bet that happiness is negatively correlated with religiosity.

HAPPIEST COUNTRIES

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UNHAPPIEST COUNTRIES

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Breakdown of data for each country:

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138 Comments

  1. Posted January 9, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    That makes perfect sense. I am glad that I live in the happiest country in the world, and I understand why it is the happiest country in the world. 🙂

  2. rickflick
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure Marx was right. But, very crudely, the happiest societies tend to be close to the poles (with the exception of Russia, but we all know about Putin). Maybe there’s something fun about the spin?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Russia is a weird outlier. They also show up as not religious but the surveys on this are truly bizarre. They go to church on holidays but don’t believe in an after life. I’m inclined to believe they go to church for tradition but are really mostly atheist. I wrote about this once but I feel like a self promoting narcissist when I share stuff I’ve written.

      I also often wonder about the north half of the world. Sometimes I think if you are dealing with cold, you have more time to think about the big questions as you huddle inside for warmth and less time to terrorize the neighbourhood because it is too damn cold outside. I’ve often remarked how people wandering around sharply decreases in winter both because of weather and darkness.

      • Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        There are many religions in Russia. You’ll find this link quite interesting, I think: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Russia

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          Here is what I wrote a while ago. The images are gone because we were hacked a while back and stuff got messed in the restore.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            Nice piece. My thought was, in answering a question like – what religion are you? – the tendency would be to read that as, are you Christian, or Muslim/other. In other words they may feel you are asking what there family ancestors were in terms of ethnicity. In the States some time ago the question means are you Christian or Jewish/other. So, the survey may lie quite a bit.

            Also, don’t be so humble about linking to your writing. Life is short.

          • Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Here is another interesting link: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/02/10/russians-return-to-religion-but-not-to-church/

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              Yes, I think I used that data in my piece. I can’t remember as it as a while ago but I’m pretty sure I did.

          • Diane G.
            Posted January 12, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            Great article, Diana! Generated some great comments as well.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

              Thanks!

      • Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Where is your blog, Diana?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          I linked to what I wrote above. I write on Canadian Atheist but I’ve been terrible for doing so lately because of competing demands on my time.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted January 10, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        “Sometimes I think if you are dealing with cold, you have more time to think about the big questions as you huddle inside for warmth and less time to terrorize the neighbourhood because it is too damn cold outside.”

        Perhaps, but a claim I have seen is that temperate climates means more long term planning in daily life, whether you like it or not. (An added source of stress besides cold and dark, reflected in depression and suicide statistics.)

        I don’t know how well that is tested, it seems to be less manana and certainly there is more boozing.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 10, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          Yes, I always complain about how long it takes me to get out the door in winter. Perhaps if one is off to commit angry murder, and one has to stop to put on mukluks, mitts and coat, the homicidal impulse has time to fade.

    • Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Methinks you all don’t know anything about Putin, judging by your erroneous remark about Russia and the Russians.

      • Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Most people don’t want to know about Putin more than they already do, because most people don’t like what they hear about him, and thinking of such a person in charge of a nuclear arsenal makes them nervous, particularly if they don’t believe in an omnipotent benevolent God.
        An event connecting Putin and religion was the song of the Pussy Riot girls in a church, begging God to save Russia from Putin because apparently no earthly force was able to. After that, two of the singers served jail term.
        A Russian writer (unfortunately, don’t remember the name) once said that the common Russian, thinking of religion, scratches not even the back of his head but his a*s (pochesyvaet dazhe ne zatylok, a zadnitsu).

        • Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          The problem is that what most people hear about Putin is lies.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

            Are you a fan? What do you know that I don’t know? Or, what do I think I know that you know is wrong about Putin?

            • Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

              I do not have the fan mentality. It is obvious that you know nothing with regard to Putin, that you have not done any real research, that you have relied on limited sources that have no credibility. It seems you have never listened to anything Putin has said. It seems that you have joined the huge and rabid Putin-hating mob.

              • Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:00 am | Permalink

                We all know that Putin supports the genocidal dictator Assad, keeps invading neighboring countries and grabbing land, imprisons his opponents (even if they are young female singers), and the most vocal ones such as Boris Nemtsov and Anna Politkovskaya are invariably shot dead. As for listening to what Mr. Putin says himself, here is a recent quote:

                “We preserved the unity and territorial integrity of the country. We must be grateful to the ordinary guys, our military, who in those very complicated conditions were taking the necessary military measures in the North Caucasus. That’s who really deserves greater publicity. They protected the country with their own bodies. It was not just a local conflict. That local conflict could have caused the situation in Russia to follow the Yugoslav scenario. We were very close to that.”

                Even I was surprised when he admitted himself that whole nations are unwilling to be part of Russia and only military force keeps them there.
                In the face of these facts, and many more, it is difficult to convince any citizen of a free country that Putin is a nice person.

              • Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                “Putin supports the genocidal dictator Assad,”

                He supports the legal government of Syria, and has proposed that the Syrian people vote whether they want to keep Assad or want a new president. What is wrong with that?

                “…keeps invading neighboring countries and grabbing land,”

                That is absolute nonsense. Which neighbouring countries has he invaded, which land has he grabbed, according to you, and on what frequency does Putin invade neighbouring countries and grab land (you wrote that he keeps doing that, I’d be interested to learn about it.

                “…imprisons his opponents (even if they are young female singers),”

                He doesn’t personally imprison anyone, nor does he personally request that individuals be imprisoned. The Russian judiciary system only imprisons people, Putin opponents and supporters alike, who break the law.

                “…and the most vocal ones such as Boris Nemtsov and Anna Politkovskaya are invariably shot dead.”

                There is not a shred of evidence that Putin had anything to do with these murders.

                You ought to think cui bono and do some serious research rather than jump to prefabricated conclusions.

                Here is an interesting article for your perusal: http://www.opednews.com/articles/Vladimir-Putin–Neither-a-by-Natylie-Baldwin-Post-soviet-Russia_Russian-Diplomacy_Russian-Foreign-Policy_Russian-Orthodoxy-160110-114.html

              • Posted January 10, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

                “He supports the legal government of Syria, and has proposed that the Syrian people vote whether they want to keep Assad or want a new president. What is wrong with that?”
                Let me not discuss whether Bashar Assad, who inherited the rule over Syria from his dictator dad Hafez Assad, is the legal ruler of Syria. Hitler also rose to power quasi-legally. This didn’t prevent him from becoming genocidal; and if he had survived the war, it would have been MUCH wrong to let the German people vote whether to keep him or not. Incidentally, these days I heard of our dear Assad starving an entire besieged city. Nice legal government!

                “Which neighbouring countries has he invaded, which land has he grabbed, according to you, and on what frequency does Putin invade neighbouring countries and grab land (you wrote that he keeps doing that.”
                Moldova – Transnistria, Georgia – Abkhazia and North Ossetia, Ukraine – Crimea and Donbass. Enough? We in Eastern Europe are just making bets where he will invade and grab next.

                “He doesn’t personally imprison anyone, nor does he personally request that individuals be imprisoned.”
                Stalin also didn’t PERSONALLY imprison anyone, but millions passed through GULAG. Oops, I forgot that Stalin is (according to Putin) just another legal, nice ruler.

                “There is not a shred of evidence that Putin had anything to do with these murders.”
                Vera, you are implicitly insulting your opponents’ intelligence. You complained that we have wrong stereotypes of Russians. Stereotypes arise mostly by generalizing the impressions from a limited number of members of the stereotyped group. If you don’t want Westerners to stereotype Russians, do not defend the odious dictator sitting on the heads of Russians and forcing many to flee their homeland, and don’t recommend texts that fill the Western reader with disgust.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 4:57 am | Permalink

                “Let me not discuss whether Bashar Assad, who inherited the rule over Syria from his dictator dad Hafez Assad, is the legal ruler of Syria. Hitler also rose to power quasi-legally. This didn’t prevent him from becoming genocidal; and if he had survived the war, it would have been MUCH wrong to let the German people vote whether to keep him or not. Incidentally, these days I heard of our dear Assad starving an entire besieged city. Nice legal government!”

                Sigh, Godwin’s Law. Pathetic.

                “Moldova – Transnistria, Georgia – Abkhazia and North Ossetia, Ukraine – Crimea and Donbass. Enough? We in Eastern Europe are just making bets where he will invade and grab next.”
                Moldova has had a Russian-controlled frozen conflict zone since 1992. Like Ukraine, it has a torn identity, with even the Romanian-speaking majority divided on whether to consider themselves Romanian or Moldovan. And like Ukraine, its political system is corrupt. But unlike in Ukraine’s two pro-democracy revolutions, and the 2009 “Twitter revolution” that brought Filat to power in Moldova, the government under attack is now pro-European, not pro-Russian or communist. If the protests produced new elections tomorrow, pro-Russian parties would very probably win.

                In 1990, the breakaway republic of Transnistria, with a predominantly Russian and Ukrainian population, declared its independence from Moldova. The region is now seeking international recognition. “We would like to appeal to Vladimir Putin so that in case of an emergence of some threat to Transnistria he, being a guarantor of peace on the territory of Transnistria … would take all the measures needed: political, diplomatic, economic, sanctional, and, of course, in case of a threat, other measures as well,” the head of the National Union of Women of Transnistria, Tatyana Dolishnyaya said in May 2015, and Valerian Tulgara, chairman of the Union of Moldovans of Transnistria said “We found ourselves blocked, gripped in a vice, both from the side of Moldova and Ukraine. This is for the first time in 25 years.”

                With regard to Georgia, it was Georgia (under the orders of NeoCon puppet Saakashvili) which attacked South Ossetia at night, bombarding and killing thousands of civilians in their homes, and killing some Russian peace-keepers who were legitimately there. Russia responded and pushed back the Georgian forces deep into Georgia, and neutralized them. Then, the Russian troops left Georgia, and South Ossetia returned to North Ossetia which was not occupied, neither was North Ossetia’s land grabbed by Russia. Abkhazia asked Russia to protect it from being grabbed and occupied by Georgia. No land-grabbing occurred.

                The Ukraine has neither been invaded nor occupied by Russia/Putin, neither has Crimea whose people voted massively to RETURN to Russia whence it was stolen by Khruschev in 1954 and given to the Ukraine, against its people’s wishes.

                There has been no invasion nor land-grabbing in the Donbass by Russia/Putin. On the other hand, there has been and continues to be a genocide of the people of the Donbass by the putschists of Kiev. I suppose you rejoice in that fact.

                I see neither invasion, occupation or land grab on the part of Putin in all of the above.

                “Stalin also didn’t PERSONALLY imprison anyone, but millions passed through GULAG. Oops, I forgot that Stalin is (according to Putin) just another legal, nice ruler.”

                A variant of Godwin’s Law – your preferred weapon, it seems. Tsk tsk. Also, Putin never said that Stalin was a nice ruler. He was a legitimate ruler according to international law, and were it not for him, the whole of Europe would be german speakers today.

                “Vera, you are implicitly insulting your opponents’ intelligence. You complained that we have wrong stereotypes of Russians. Stereotypes arise mostly by generalizing the impressions from a limited number of members of the stereotyped group. If you don’t want Westerners to stereotype Russians, do not defend the odious dictator sitting on the heads of Russians and forcing many to flee their homeland, and don’t recommend texts that fill the Western reader with disgust.”

                Oh please, you do write extremely bad fiction. It seems that, according to you, texts that state facts and truth disgust Western readers. Speak for yourself and not for the majority of the Western people, do not insult their intelligence. Have you ever been to Russia? To Crimea? I have, and reality is 180° from what you imply it to be.

              • rickflick
                Posted January 10, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

                I don’t know whether Putin personally ordered the murder of his opponents, but to say that there is not a shred of evidence tying him to the crimes is like saying he did not personally point the weapons and pull the trigger. I think as the head of the Russian government and a KGB agent, he would have plenty of friends to take care of business. Realistically, he had plenty of motive and means – which doesn’t prove anything, but it is a highly suspicious situation. I personally would not trust him to wash my car.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:00 am | Permalink

                In fact there is not a shred of evidence linking him to these murders, neither of which were to his advantage, quite the contrary.

                As to washing your car, he would never stoop to doing that, rest assured.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted January 10, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                @mayamrkov
                “Vera, you are implicitly insulting your opponents’ intelligence. You complained that we have wrong stereotypes of Russians. Stereotypes arise mostly by generalizing the impressions from a limited number of members of the stereotyped group. If you don’t want Westerners to stereotype Russians, do not defend the odious dictator sitting on the heads of Russians and forcing many to flee their homeland, and don’t recommend texts that fill the Western reader with disgust.”

                That’s circular reasoning (and we do know you hate Putin). So anything that tends to exculpate Putin must be dismissed out of hand because… well because you ‘know’ Putin’s evil. That argument implicitly insults our intelligence.

                Personally, I think I detect a general low-key tendency to blacken Putin’s name. Anything he does is portrayed by Western news as either ridiculous or evil. (A bit like the right’s view of Obama). I suspect this is at least partly because he’s a Russian nationalist who challenges US influence.

                cr

            • Posted January 10, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              I meant South Ossetia, of course. Sorry!

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted January 10, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

            Russia is running out of money for the first time in Putin’s regime because of low oil prices. At the same time as he is increasing military spending in order to finance his illegal military campaigns (which are making him popular at home, he is cutting pensions and other social spending.

            On 31 Dec he signed a presidential decree that NATO is a threat to the security of Russia. It is true that NATO has been increasing their activity. However, for years almost all members of NATO have not been spending anywhere near the amount they have pledged that is part of a condition of membership. The reason there is now an increase is in direct response to the increase in military threat to Europe from Russia, not the other way around.

            It is inconceivable that NATO would make an attacking strike on Russia unless they were first attacked. Russia has been pushing boundaries for some time. We all know about Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia etc. It was Russia that downed the flight over Ukraine. However, what is heard about less is all the moves Russia is making against Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

            At the moment Putin is popular. He controls the media. You are not allowed to talk about things like the numbers of deaths of soldiers, because he wants to make it look like it’s “Us against the World, but we are winning.” The sanctions are biting though. Cupboards empty of food, and a variety of food, make a difference. Russians will get sick of having less and less money, and less to buy with what little they do have. It can’t last.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted January 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

              “illegal military campaigns”
              Was there ever a ‘legal’ military campaign? Was Iraq legal? Are drones?

              “On 31 Dec he signed a presidential decree that NATO is a threat to the security of Russia.”
              Considering NATO overtures to Ukraine, which controls Russia’s access to Black Sea ports, I’d say he had grounds for concern.

              “It was Russia that downed the flight over Ukraine.”
              Not so far as I know. It was (probably) Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists, which is not the same thing. And they thought it was a Ukrainian military jet. You make it sound like a deliberate act. (Has the US apologised yet for the Iranian Airbus their high-tech missile cruiser shot down over the Gulf?)

              I don’t really want to be put in the position of defending Putin, but overstatements and hyperbole don’t help.

              cr

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 10, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

                Saying the Iraq war was illegal, which it was, doesn’t make it OK for Putin to engage in illegal wars.

                Ukraine doesn’t control Russian access to Black Sea ports – Russia has Crimea now, which is where the ports are, and previously there was an agreement between Russia and Ukraine over their use. Russia had full access and use and bases in Crimea.

                The weapon that downed the plane was obtained from Russia and operated by a Russian soldier. I accept that it was an accident, but if Russia wasn’t on the ground supporting the separatists, the accident wouldn’t have happened.

                Yes, the US should apologize for shooting down the airbus but again, two wrongs don’t make a right. The US shooting down a plane doesn’t mean Russia gets a pass when they do it. They’re both wrong.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:16 am | Permalink

                The weapon that allegedly (the investigation is not over yet) downed MH17 was an old model of the Buk which was part of the huge amount of Soviet arsenal the Ukraine kept after it became independent. So it was made in Russia, as is the bulk of the Ukrainian military arsenal.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

                It was a Buk. I don’t know the age of the weapon. It was identified being taken to Russia after the accident, and the person who used the weapon has been identified as a current member of the Russian military, as have many of those fighting for the separatists.

                This idea you mention of Russians tightening their belts for the glory of Russia are the same words I remember Putin using in a recent speech. I am appalled that anyone elevates military might to the extent they cut current social spending, especially pensions for the elderly.

                It’s a policy that will cause problems for Putin longer term if he’s unable to reverse it too – one of the major things that keeps people in places like Transnistria happy is their Russian pensions. If they get too low there will be an increase in social unrest, requiring even more military spending in those places. That means there’ll be even less available for social spending and there’s a downward spiral.

                The economy of Crimea has suffered significantly since Putin took over. He’s promised it will improve, but so far those promises have failed to materialize. He can’t deliver without a land bridge between Russia and Crimea, which is what his interference on the side of the separatists is all about.

                And there is multiple evidence that Russian media isn’t free. I’m not sure how to argue with anyone who believes otherwise.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

                Putin nationalized all the TV channels one by one and most Russians receive their news via the TV.

                Putin is walking a fine line and he knows it. His worse fear is an uprising of the people. He knows he has to be careful.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                I think most Russians would be shocked and horrified if they knew some of the things Putin and his cronies get up to. They’re proud of their country, and they would hate it if they knew the reality being hidden from them. This was a point made well in Bill Browder’s book ‘Red Notice’, which I read last year.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

                Actually, they are horrified by the lies about Putin and the Russophobia that they see in the Western mainstream media. One can buy newspapers and magazines from all over the world in Russia, and that includes the “serious” ones such as Time, Newsweek, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, etc. They are far better informed than you, they know far better than the western people.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

                They are far better informed than you, they know far better than the western people.

                That’s interesting….how can you possibly know what all Western people and Heather Hastie know as well as what all Russians know and then come to the conclusion that Heather and the Westerners know less? I’m very generous to Russia and if you’ve watched discussions here, you’d see that, but this sounds more like an ad hom than it does anything else.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

                It was by no means an ad hominem and I’m sorry if it came off as one. Just as the Swiss people know far more about Switzerland than people in other countries, just as the British people know far more about the UK than do people outside of the UK, etc., Russians know far more about Russia than people in other countries, and especially people in the West who lap up the Kool-Aid and lies about Putin and Russia.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                I was speaking with a Russian colleague and we agreed that most Russians probably feel they are better off than they were so they are willing to accept corruption.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

                Yeah. Because of the high oil price, Putin did make some good improvements initially. The problem is that instead of handling the income the way Norway did, a lot of the money has been used corruptly. Now that the price is down, the people are suffering but the oligarchs are still wealthy. Russia, for example, has by far the highest percentage of billionaires to millionaires in the world because of income inequality and most income being in the hands of a few.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                “Putin nationalized all the TV channels one by one and most Russians receive their news via the TV.” That simply is not true. Most Russians also get their news via the internet and access news media from all over the world.

                “His worse fear is an uprising of the people.” Nonsense. He is very popular and has an approval rating of well over 80%.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

                He is very popular and has a high approval rating but he is still extremely worried about an uprising. It’s why he clamps down on any issues.

                How is it not true that Putin nationalized the TV channels. He did this when he drove out the oligarchs. It is a fact. It is history.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

                There is zero risk of an uprising, and a large number of the TV stations are independent. Putin did not drive out the oligarchs, he gave them a choice – keep your money but pay taxes and do not get involved in politics, or leave the country. A few of them did leave. Berezovsky, Abramovich and a few others fled to London. Khodorkovsky refused and broke a few laws, he was judged and sentenced to jail, and Putin recently released him but told him he must leave Russia.

                Off the top of my head, Dozhd TV, NTV and Zvezda are independent TV channels. There are more, but I can’t remember their names.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                Well that’s true, he did give them a choice (the oligarchs) and it was actually a bit amusing when it happened because those guys were criminals and Khodorkovsky was no saint but sadly Putin didn’t continue to stop corruption and some say he systematized it.

                I didn’t say there was a risk of an uprising; I said that is Putin’s biggest fear whether it happens or not. It is why he is intolerant of serious opposition.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

                Putin is not intolerant of serious opposition. The second largest political party in the Duma, which is his biggest serious opposition, is the Communist party which has 92 seats in the Duma, and he hasn’t been taking measures against it. The second largest opposition to Putin is the SR party (Social Democrat) with 64 seats in the Duma, and the third largest opposition party is the far-right LDPR party which holds 56 seats in the Duma.

                Putin has succeeded in diminishing corruption in Russia, he has not added to it. He has a strong history of being incorruptible himself.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

                And all those ridiculously expensive watches he and Patriarch Kirill wear — they earned those with their salaries, right?

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                Please give me links to photos showing both of them and closeups of the watches you allege they wear, and prove to me that they are not Russian-made Raketa or Podeba watches.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                Here is Putin giving away an $11k watch. I’m sure you are aware that he does this a lot and it is a mark of his generosity to regular Russians. You can see the watch close up on the person he gives it away to and this article is from the watch manufacturer so it isn’t exactly propaganda but a promotion of their watches.

                Then there are the many Russians who have reported on his watches like this$60K beauty in white gold

                The Russian Orthodox church apologized for airbrushing Kirill’s $30,000 watch out of a 2009 photo on their site.

                Why would they airbrush the watch out if they didn’t think owning it is scandalous? Thanks to Russian bloggers, this photo came to light and the reflection on the shiny surface of the table showed the watch had been airbrushed from Kirill’s arm.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                Neither Newsweek nor the BBC have a shred of credibility with regard to anything to do with Russia and Putin. Furthermore, these watches are not really all that expensive compared to the real luxury Swiss watches. You sound like you are jealous as well as hateful.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

                But what about Russian bloggers? What about Kirill’s Church? What about the links to the Russian sites written by Russians? Do they too have no credibility? Or even a site of a watch maker?

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                There are some Putin-hating Russian bloggers (who get a salary from the US Embassy in Moscow) who post lies and mendacious propaganda. There is a fifth column in Russia that is linked to the CIA, so there is nothing surprising about blogs and websites written by Russians (some probably are pseudo-Russians also employed by the Embassy and the CIA). They of course have zero credibility.

                I do not dispute the credibility of watch-makers’ sites, or of their prices. The prices of these two watches (Putin’s who gave it spontaneously to a worker, that’s true generosity, and Patriarch Kirill’s). Truly expensive luxury watches are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

                The Russian Orthodox Church does not belong to Patriarch Kirill, and he could well have received that watch from some friend or a congregation abroad.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

                And I’m sorry but $60k for a watch of a man you reports on income of $100K is questionable. How is pointing that out “jealous” or “hateful”? You’re resorting to ad hom again which implies you have no other reasonable arguments. I have a $299 smart watch….I’m not really jealous of luxury watches because they can’t connect to my iPhone and tell me when there is a WEIT message ready for me to respond to. And hateful, well I don’t know maybe I am hateful but I don’t think this reasoned discussion is evidence of that. Furthermore, I’ve always been very nice about Putin and Russia if you’ve taken the time to read this site for any period and when I did so, I was very much on the opposite side of everyone else.

                Please avoid ad homs and argue reasonably or don’t respond.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

                Where did I post anything about Putin’s income? Please remind me (with a link) because I do have some memory problems.

                I’m happy you like your watch, good for you. I don’t have any that work any more.

                As for reading your posts about Russia and Putin, I have been very ill and not coming here at all for many weeks, so I have not seen any of your posts on these subjects.

                Happy New Year.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

                “It was identified being taken to Russia after the accident, and the person who used the weapon has been identified as a current member of the Russian military, as have many of those fighting for the separatists.” Incontrovertible evidence, please. If that really was the case, it would have been all over the media, front page. The investigation is far from over, no conclusions have been released. i don’t know where you got this nonsense from, but it is nonsense.

                ” I am appalled that anyone elevates military might to the extent they cut current social spending, especially pensions for the elderly.” That is what Poroshenko has been doing and continues to do so as to finance his continuing genocidal war against the people of East Ukraine.

                “The economy of Crimea has suffered significantly since Putin took over.” Not according to my relatives and friends who live there. It has suffered a bit but is stabilizing and even going up now. Russians tourism to Crimea has increased significantly lately. Admittedly, Kiev’s blockade of freight to Crimea is not helping. On the other hand, a growing number of foreign investors are now investing in Crimea. Workers are building temporary bridges that will carry construction machinery and deliver materials to the Kerch bridge site. Eventually there will be three bridges, one is already working. Currently, regular passenger and cargo deliveries are organized by direct flights and ferries from ports in southern Russia.

                “And there is multiple evidence that Russian media isn’t free.” In the western mainstream media, of course, which publishes a great deal of fabrications about Russia, but the media is free – Russians have uncensored access via the internet to all the media in the world, and there are plenty of printed media critical of Putin.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

                Russians do not have uncensored access to the internet. In a post I wrote I had trouble accessing a site in Denmark because from NZ, the server went through Russia. It was not a controversial site – you can see the screenshot of the message I continually got in this post: http://www.heatherhastie.com/daesh-isil-isis-is-whats-in-a-name/ which refers to the Russian government’s censorship laws.

                Or perhaps you should look up Russia in the International Freedom Index. It’s 2015 score is here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2015/russia

                That’s even worse than it’s 2014 score here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2014/russia

                Which is worse than it’s 2013 score here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2014/russia

                2012 was better than 2013 too. So not only is it one of the least free countries on the planet, it’s getting worse.

                In the World Press Freedom Index, Russia is 148th/180 in the world. See here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2014/russia

                I didn’t deny that there is development happening in Crimea. It was happening before Russia came along too, and stopped because of what Russia did. Russia didn’t invent development in Crimea, but they have slowed it.

                Russia is providing massive incentives to get Russian tourists into Crimea, but because international tourism has all but stopped, and a huge proportion of the population rely on it for at least part of their income, it’s all but impossible for it to return to previous levels.

                There’s oil off the coast, which I’m sure Russia has their eye on. Oil companies stopped their investment because of Russia’s invasion, and because of the sanctions, they can’t get the equipment they need to develop the oil fields themselves. So Crimea is missing out there because of Russia.

                And don’t ask the Muslims in Crimea how they feel about Russia’s takeover. Of course, some can’t be asked because they’ve mysteriously disappeared.

                I’m glad your friends are OK, but anecdotes aren’t evidence. International human rights organisations made a damning report of what’s happening in Crimea a year after the takeover. This report details some of the human rights abuses: https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/CrimeaReport_FINAL.pdf

                And it was from the media I learned about the identification of the person who fired the missile, and I saw it on several sources. It was a long time ago now, and I can’t remember the details.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                I have been to Russia several times over the past five years, and also very recently on my way to Crimea, and I used the internet there and accessed numerous websites that might be deemed controversial with no difficulties whatsoever. There was no censorship at all.

                I recently was in Crimea and went to the Tatar areas because that is where my family originates, and spoke with many Muslim Tatars. They all are glad of being part of Russia now, they are treated far better by Russia than they were by the Ukraine, that’s for sure, because they were treated like dirt by the Ukrainians. No Tatar mysteriously disappeared, either. Also, the Tatars represent a small percentage of the population.

                Under the Ukrainians, there was little to no development in Crimea, the infrastructures were in a very sorry state. Russia has begun repairing and upgrading them.

                American-controlled “human rights” organizations reported what they were ordered to report.

                And it was from the media I learned about the identification of the person who fired the missile, and I saw it on several sources. It was a long time ago now, and I can’t remember the details.

                From which media, from which sources? Are you sure you’re not confusing it with the Ukrainian pilot who said that it was he who shot it down from his Ukrainian fighter plane? Here are two of many links about this:

                http://www.veteranstoday.com/2014/12/23/ukraine-pilot-reveals-kiev-plane-shot-down-mh-17-full-transcript/

                http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7dc_1419295378

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

                No I’m not confusing the stories.

                Russia clearly has a policy restricting access to certain sites. I proved it, but you still deny it. The fact that the sites you wanted to view were all available to you is irrelevant.

                The NGOs that you claim are controlled by the US government actually don’t rate thatccountry that well either – certainly not as well as they think they should be rated. The NGOs that rate Russia poorly have a reputation for integrity.

                It doesn’t matter what evidence I provide, you are going to find some way to deny it. When it comes to Putin and Russia, you seem unable to be objective. We all have our blind spots I suppose.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                So far, you have not provided any evidence. You could have created that screenshot yourself, anyway. I note that your website is a Russophobic Putin-hating website, of the kind that is financed by NeoCons.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                Oh come one! Russophobic? Putin-hating? I’ve not seen that with Heather at all. In fact I have found her to be very open minded about Russia and willing to question whether she was being influenced by Western opinions toward Russia.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                She wrote an article saying that Putin/Russia are the biggest threat in the world (or words to that effect), thus parroting the sound bytes of the NeoCons. That is enough for me to note that there is a distinctive Russophopbic and Putinphobic trend there, as can also be seen in her responses to me here.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                FFS. I didn’t create that screenshot myself, especially not more than a year ago in preparation for this discussion with you. I don’t know Russian, or how to to write it on a computer. I’ve no idea what the Russian even says – presumably you can tell whether it’s expressed as a Russian would write it, or if it’s the product of a computer translation. I wouldn’t know where to start. Talk about conspiracy theories.

                My website is not Russophobic – I have a great deal of respect for the people of Russia, and indeed am not against any race of people in the world as a whole, only individuals. I do not deny having little time for Putin, and I have researched him at length. Even in this discussion with you, I have acknowledged some of the good things he’s done and his popularity, and you would find more if you read the (very few) of my posts that relate to Russia.

                I am not a neocon, I’m a socially liberal, atheist, secular humanist. I pay for the site myself, and receive absolutely no income from anyone for it, which is a struggle because I can no longer work due to the cumulative effects of several spinal injuries and the resulting surgeries.

                By saying I haven’t provided any evidence, you sound like a creationist denying evolution, although I admit there are a lot more arguments in favour of Putin than creationism.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

                So you say, so you say, but in view of what you have posted to me here, I am very much inclined to disbelieve you.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

                I have faults. Lying, especially on my blog, isn’t one of them. I value my integrity highly.

                I just did an image search of the my screenshot. It looks like others have come across the same thing I did, and taken a screenshot too, because there were many results. However, they were in Russian and so meant nothing to me. Do an image search yourself – you be the judge.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted January 10, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

                @Heather
                I just queried which wars (if any) were ever ‘legal’? I think the question of legality is a shaky basis to decide if a war is justified or not.

                As I recall the Russians were concerned with what might happen to their access agreements if Ukraine joined NATO.

                And, “if Russia wasn’t on the ground supporting the separatists, the accident wouldn’t have happened.” Equally, if the Ukraine hadn’t been taking military action against the separatists, etc etc. Takes two to tango.

                Arguably, the authorities (Ukraine?) should have closed the area to airline flights. It could be that no-one expected a SAM missile to hit a plane at that altitude. It’s easy to be wise after the event, though.

                cr

            • Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:11 am | Permalink

              Actually, Putin does not control the media, and no discussions on any subject whatsoever is repressed, especially not in the printed media. Russia produces enough food for its people. That the rich no longer can buy luxury foods and goods formerly imported will not affect the whole population. Furthermore, Russians have always been more than capable of tightening their belts and making do with little when it is a question of defending their country. I have no worries about the future for the Russian people as agriculture is being developed and expanded. Anyway, Russia still imports fruit and vegetables from South American and other countries, it is not isolated as the Western mainstream media want us to believe, far from that.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

                I’d be interested to know what you make of the mysterious recent death of Putin’s former propaganda chief in the US recently. There’s no proof, but the speculation is that he was about to spill the beans on certain aspects of the Putin regime. I don’t know what to make of it myself. On the one hand ir all seems like a bit of a conspiracy theory, but the problem is there a rather a lot of mysterious deaths amongst Putin’s opponents.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                Okay, Vierotchka, you can defend the thug Putin all you want on this site, but you will not insult other readers by calling their sites hateful or calling them ignorant. You will apologize now to Heather and Diana, or you will be banned permanently.

                Do you know how to be civil on this site? You seem to lose all civility when it comes to discussion of your hero Putin.

              • Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                I apologize for responding with some degree of anger and aggression to Diana’s and Heather’s posts to me because I sensed in them contempt and scorn towards me. Sorry. I am sorry, and I hope the feeling is mutual.

                Putin is no thug, neither is he my hero, but I am tired of seeing lies posted about him every day all over the web. Admittedly, these lies are spread in the mainstream media and have influenced even very intelligent people in the west, nonetheless, they do not reflect reality at all.

                Here is a picture of Putin for your pleasure, Jerry. Dolphins are excellent judges of human character:

                I am out of this page and thread. Have an excellent 2016.

              • Posted January 13, 2016 at 4:46 am | Permalink

                This is a notapology. You aren’t really apologizing, but rationalizing your behavior as a response to “contempt and scorn” which in fact, didn’t even come close to your accusations of faking pictures and, in the case of Heather, writing a hateful website.
                You will be on moderation until I’m connvinced that you can discuss these matters in a civil fashion without insulting other readers.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Putin seems to be a nasty s-o-b. He is accused of murdering numerous political opponents including Sergei Yushenkov, co-chairman of the Liberal Russia political party, Nikolai Girenko, Viktor Yushchenko, poisoned by Dioxin, etc. On the other hand I was really referencing him in jest as a cause of Russia’s religious ambiguity.

        • Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

          That is what the Russophobic western mainstream media want you to believe. It seems it has worked, it seems you have swallowed the bait. Sad.

          • Pali
            Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

            With respect, your comments here aren’t exactly enlightening anyone regarding Putin, but instead seem condescending and rude. If you’ve got better sources of information regarding the man than others here are familiar with, why not share them rather than essentially saying “you know nothing, you’ve been lied to, but I know better”?

            Without supporting evidence, saying that is arrogant, rude, and pointless. With supporting evidence, saying that helps the rest of us learn something.

            • Posted January 10, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink

              Sorry, I responded giving you a whole bunch of links, forgetting that WordPress automatically does not publish a post with lots of links. Hopefully, Jerry or one of the moderators will pass that response I made. I am tired and ill, I don’t have the energy to repeat my comment by posting a dozen responses with only one link in them.

              • rickflick
                Posted January 10, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

                Just give us your best link.

              • Posted January 11, 2016 at 4:58 am | Permalink

                They all are my best links.

  3. Posted January 9, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I think that people want to have a sense that their life is secure and predictable – that they won’t go hungry, that there won’t be a natural disaster, that they won’t become disabled and unable to work. And if the society cannot provide any meaningful assurances, they’ll be looking for imaginary helpers.

  4. Scott Draper
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “They want that material well being!”

    They want to keep their holiness AND have material well-being, too, but these goals are incompatible, at least on a society-wide level.

  5. Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Do Greg Paul and Andy Walton really mean England when they say “England” or do they actually mean the UK?

    More particularly, Walton says that English (¿British?) children are unhappy. Why focus on children?

    /@

    • tubby
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Guilt? By not taking religion seriously enough to be religious, they are robbing their children of the happiness they could find in thinking Santa is real and that Fluffy is in heaven. Notice all those Scandinavian nations up at the top of the list there though.

    • PeteT
      Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      Could it be that British children are the subset of society most exposed to the unhappiness-spreading ill-effects of religion (what with all the faith schools and all)?

  6. Robert Darby
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    As Max Weber showed in Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, material prosperity is associated with the free market, free inquiry (the scientific revolution) and the decline of church authority. As a bishop inadvertently admitted when he gave a talk at my school many years ago, high levels of religiosity thrive in conditions of poverty and ignorance.

  7. zytigon
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I recommend this rap music by
    Baba Brinkman – Religion Evolves
    on his own Youtube channel
    worthwhile lyrics

  8. Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t put the USA so low on the scale of success. Of course, it depends on which indicators you take, but I think that if life in Europe was really so much better, Americans would apply for EU immigration visas in droves.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Americans in general think they are better off than most others because that is the propaganda that is thrown at them. I’ve heard many Congressmen openly say that we have the best medical system in the world and many people who have no idea, just believe it.

      Seldom do Americans ever want to look else where for examples of better. It would not be American. A perfect example are guns. The rest of the world does much better without guns and you can spell out the stats on this and what do they do…buy more guns.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        The best medical care is available here in the good old US of A — as long as cost is no object (and never mind that we increasingly rely on foreign-born doctors to staff our hospitals). It’s just us hoi polloi who are in jeopardy of receiving less-than-adequate medical care.

        • Randy Schenck
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          Well sure, if your definition of best care in the world does not apply to 50% of the population then it’s swell.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:36 am | Permalink

          My primary care doctor is from the Czech Republic. During a few past hospitalizations I’ve had doctors from Russia and Poland. All females, too.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

            My dentist, trained in Eastern Europe, said she had to undergo 6 years of training in the U.S. before practicing here. Maybe they didn’t have the most advanced procedures over there.

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 12, 2016 at 1:03 am | Permalink

              I’ve wondered about that myself! My doctor seems quite up to date but I sometimes have trouble with her accent.

              Forgot to mention that my GI doc is a woman from Norway. I wonder if hospitals have discovered that they can get some pretty cheap help from Europe?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

                Sometimes it’s just rules. Here in Canada the college of physicians decides if a doctor can and practical and often it’s a weird buddy system thing.

                But I do know dentistry is different in the world. My Indonesian friend had some kind of work where they basically cemented her tooth in place for a cavity so now that tooth is u treatable.

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 13, 2016 at 1:04 am | Permalink

                “Here in Canada the college of physicians decides if a doctor can and practical and often it’s a weird buddy system thing.”

                In that case I think it’s even stranger to have so many female European doctors. It’s not like they started out in the old boys’ club!

                Note to self: avoid Indonesian dentists.

      • Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        Propaganda never prevents people from voting with their feet. Russians, Chinese and Arabs are also continuously brainwashed that their societies are the best, yet they are seeking better opportunities for themselves. Gun violence is a problem, but hardly enough to write off the country. As for the medical system, those I know in the USA complain far less than those in some EU countries.

    • Marella
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Nah, they’d be trying to move to Australia if they knew what was good for them. Fortunately they are too deluded to realise how much better off they’d be almost anywhere else. I think it’s the flow of economic refugees from the South which gives Americans an inflated idea of how wonderful it is to live in the USA. If they stopped to reflect, that being a better place than Mexico and Colombia was hardly cause for self congratulation, they might start to realise that things aren’t as great as they thought.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        I think it depends on which part of America you live in. America is a big place with a large population and several cultures. There is truth to the idea that there are two Americas. I certainly don’t think it’s bad to live in America but there are places I really wouldn’t want to live as an atheist, a poor person, a woman or a minority….but there are places that I’d love to live in America (if they had universal health care). I love Boston but I think they are kind of like Canadians over there. 😉

        • rickflick
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          I think the biggest divide is between the two coasts which are more liberal and cosmopolitan vs the south, mid-west, and west, which tends to be more provincial.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      “Americans would apply for EU immigration visas in droves.”

      Just as well they don’t. Europe has enough problem dealing with religious immigrants already without adding a bunch of loonies whose religion is guns.

      cr

      • Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Come on, you must have read something by Trump immediately before writing this comment ;-). There are many millions of decent Americans.
        I was just expressing an opinion that life in America is not as bad as the graph showed it.
        It is absolutely another matter, in the hypothetical case of many Americans wishing to come to Europe, whether Europe should accept them. I’d say, most are quite OK, and of course there are some, such as Bundy & Co., who aren’t. I think host countries should have full discretion in saying “no” to potential immigrants, particularly if it seems that they will not fit in.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:50 am | Permalink

          No, Trump is a classic example of why Europe wouldn’t want ‘Muricans.

          I’ve just spent the last few days (intermittently) reading comments by NRA supporters about why arming everybody and his dog to the teeth makes the country a safer place.

          cr

          • Posted January 10, 2016 at 6:42 am | Permalink

            So I almost guessed it! You didn’t read Trump, but you did read NRA supporters (I first wrote RNA, this is the result of bringing work home).
            Europe indeed wouldn’t want ‘Muricans, but Americans are another matter.

  9. Derek Freyberg
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I’d offer odds that a very high percentage of the Koreans who say that religion is very important in the Pew survey are Christian (Wikipedia quotes a 2005 study putting the Christian population at around 30%: 20% Protestant – mostly Methodist and Presbyterian, I think, though some Baptist – and 10% Catholic). For Japan, the percentage of Christians is much lower, 1%-3%. While I think that Christians are likely to be among those who say that religion is very important, I expect that the rest come primarily from the “new religions” (those founded since the middle 19th century), Sokagakkai,Tenrikyo, and Seicho-no-ie, for eample, and especially the post-WW2 “new religions” like Mahikari.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Following that thought, I wonder if the “indigenous” religions of Japan and Korea (and I realize that Buddhism isn’t truly indigenous to either, merely very long-established) are such that people just “go along” with them rather than placing great importance on them. I don’t know Korea, but my impression of Japan over the years has been that people tend to be “shruggies” – people go to shrines at New Year and Boys’ and Girls’ Festivals, and have Shinto aspects to their weddings; and also visit cemeteries at Bon, have Buddhist funerals, and maintain household Buddhist altars; all without thinking a lot about it. Particularly for Shinto, since there is no real dogma, it’s so different from the Abrahamic religions that I wonder how people would find it “very important”.

  10. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    An alternative interpretation for the position of the USA is that it is really two countries side by side. Red States vs Blue States perhaps?

    An interesting exploration for anyone who has access to the GINI stats/Pew Survey on a state by state basis.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Actually there are two countries but not the ones you think. There is Washington DC and then the rest of the country. If you look very hard at the economics and politics of America, these are the two separate countries. The one in DC operates separately from the rest of the country and really does not have much interest in the rest.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Or it could be that more-religious societies have taken to heart the edicts of scripture to forsake material wellbeing and follow the Lord … nah, I ain’t buying that one either.

  12. Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    The wiki on that happiness report isn’t very explicit. How were these “happiness quotients” arrived at? How can you quantify something as archetypically subjective as happiness? Given two people in the same circumstances one may identify as happy and the other as unhappy.

  13. Randy Schenck
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    The Religious stats study and the dysfunctional/successful make sense but the Happiness listing seems a little vague. It gets date from things like perceived corruption. I’m not sure what the point is? If you are determining happiness from perceived feeling of the people surveyed I don’t see how that gets a meaningful result.

    If we are pretty corrupt in reality but the people perceive that we are not corrupt – so much for the happy part. Instead of a happiness index maybe it should be a delusion index.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I think the corruption perception index comes from journalists, including international ones. It’s not reliant on citizens, who often don’t know the reality of their own country, or feel unable to express the truth.

  14. Daniel
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering about how this relates to countries that are wealthy from oil, like the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, which are wealthy, but still very religious. It’s possible that it’s not wealth, per se, that makes countries secular, but rather that something happens in the process of industrialization that makes them secular. Specifically, I’m thinking of young men and (especially) young women leaving their parents houses and communities, going into cities in their late teens and early 20’s, and getting a bit of money in their pockets. You can see where that goes pretty quickly. If this scenario explains the secularism of most of the wealthiest countries, then we should be worried about the Gulf States, which have become wealthy without this phase of development, thanks to oil. It would be interesting to see how countries like the UAE compare to Muslim countries like Malaysia or Bangladesh as the latter two become wealthier along the traditional industrial path. Another potentially worrisome consideration is so-called “leap-frogging”, the idea that poor countries will soon be able to skip certain phases of industrialization thanks to technologies like 3-D printing, cheap solar panels, and the internet. This would be great for humanity, but it could result in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa looking more like Saudi Arabia than like Finland.

    • Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      It is only the elite in those countries who are rich. The overwhelming majority of their populations are poor or very poor, and their workers are slaves imported from India, Nepal and the Philippines.

      • Daniel
        Posted January 10, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes, of course. But speaking only of the citizens of those countries (who are sometimes a minority), the HDI is in the Argentina/Lithuania/etc range. My point is that the relationship between wealth and secularism might be complicated by the mode of production.

  15. Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    With a few exceptions, the happy countries are good government countries (democratic, low corruption, high social spending), the unhappy countries are not.

  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure about that Happiness Survey. Portugal bottom? I’m surprised. I don’t know much about Portugal but I don’t know of much bad either.

    But something doesn’t add up. According to Wikipedia, over 150 countries were surveyed, but the list only goes down to 85 (Portugal). Is Portugal actually 85/156?

    (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/world-happiness-report-happiest-countries_n_3894041.html
    or
    http://unsdsn.org/resources/publications/world-happiness-report-2013/

    I’m still looking for the actual report)

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Oh, here we are:

      http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2013/

      You want p. 23-25 of the 156-page report. (156 countries, 156 pages. Coincidence).

      Portugal is indeed #85, Togo is #156.

      cr

    • Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      About Portugal, this article will explain why: http://www.algarvedailynews.com/features/home-family/167-the-pain-and-shame-of-poverty-in-portugal

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 10, 2016 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        Nevertheless, there are 79 countries which are worse.

        cr

        • Posted January 10, 2016 at 12:51 am | Permalink

          Certainly, but not in the industrial West, except for Greece, of course. Spain is also suffering like Greece and Portugal, and, to a lesser degree, Italy.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 10, 2016 at 12:56 am | Permalink

            Oh yes, I don’t doubt that. And I’m not trying to boost Portugal.

            It just seemed to me that Portugal was never going to be the worst in the world, and that a ‘happiness’ score that only ranged from 7.6 down to 5.1 seemed a very narrow range.

            cr

  17. Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Brazil in fifth place?! How do they define happiness?

    • Posted January 10, 2016 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      Plenty of good sex, good salsa music and good salsa dancing, perhaps…

  18. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted January 10, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I can think of a test that might help to distinguish between Walton’s theory and the sociologists’. I would imagine that public interest in playing the lottery (such as the current Powerball excitement in the US) would also correlate with inequality and a high GINI score. If the data bears this out, it would also presumably correlate closely with high religiosity.
    I would love to see Walton squirm as he tries to spin “a belief in the transcendent which offers more meaning to people than wealth” and the promise of eternal salvation as a moral foundation for spending some of the rent money on Powerball tickets. For the sociologists, of course, no such mental gymnastics would be required to fit such data with their theory.

  19. Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Nina's Soap Bubble Box and commented:
    religion promised a fix for your suffering and prevents social change that causes it.

    material wealth leads to less suffering of wealth owners and increases suffering elsewhere… thus the cycle of poverty and religion is revealed in parallel with secular capitalism/democratic socialism

  20. Diane G.
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    sub

  21. andywaltonbolton
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry.

    Thanks for engaging with my article.

    Couple of points:

    1) You say, “Given the flow of immigrants from the former lands to the latter, I think the answer is clear.” I think the answer is anything but clear. Yes, here in London we have a large immigrant community from less wealthy parts of the world. But once here do they throw off the shackles of their faith. Anything but! I could take you to large congregations of Bengali Muslims, huge churches of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin etc.

    2) The fact that the rich countries of Europe and North America are at the top of the happiness stats isn’t surprising. Why that might be is where this gets interesting. Sure, it might be partly to do with having more wealth (and therefore better healthcare, housing etc) but we cannot discount the legacy of Christendom in those nations. The rule of law, freedom of speech, individual liberty etc all came to exist in western countries because of their dominant religion. That doesn’t make it true of course, but it can’t be tossed aside as a factor here.

    3) My warning to progressive atheists was really based on this point above. It is unproven whether a society can lose its Christian faith and maintain freedom, equality, the rule of law etc. What is unclear to me is how those values stand up against the voracious late capitalism we see in much of the western world now.

    4) Just as an aside, I’ve stumbled across your site a couple of times before. I enjoy the combativeness of the name, but just FYI, I’m a Christian who thinks evolution is the correct reading of the scientific data. But is is true? Sounds like a category error to me. Evolution is a scientific theory that overwhelmingly seems to be the best explanation. ‘True’ seems to imply some kind of transcendent reality that I’m not sure applies here.

    Peace, Andy

    • Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      A quick response. Religion in the West is waning slowly, but it won’t go away overnight, particularly in tight-knit immigrant communities who have migrated with their religion. Second you apparently haven’t read the sociological literature on the influence of well-being on religiosity, nor do you cite any. As for point 3, we already KNOW, for crying out loud, that a society can lose its faith and maintain freedom, quality, law, etc. Have you been to Scandinavia lately? Finally, have you no idea what scientists mean by “truth”? It’s a provisional truth, and always has been. Read my book, Faith versus Fact, if you want to see how scientists construe the word “truth.”

      • andywaltonbolton
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        Religion in the west may seem to be waning slowly. Church attendance actually rose 16% in London in the last ten years – not only down to immigration, so I think there’s a way to go until we pronounce it dead.

        No, I’m not a sociologist. I’m a journalist and was offering some thoughts. I’ll happily read some stuff if you can suggest it (such as your book).

        Scandinavia is still trading on the afterglow of Christendom. There are still state churches for goodness sake! Come back to me in 100 years if Scandinavia becomes totally secular/atheist and we’ll talk again about how well freedom, equality etc has stood up.

        Finally, using ‘truth’ in that sense is fine. But of course it’s not what philosophers, or in fact the general public would mean by truth.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    TRUE = 1. (FALSE = 0. In many computer languages).

    More to the point, my reaction (coming from a UK/NZ background) is to find the book title Why Evolution is True as being slightly combative (as Andy said), slightly defensive, slightly superfluous. A bit like a book entitled ‘Why Gravity is True’. “Well of course it is, who ever suggested it might not be?” (register surprise and puzzlement).

    At least in my cultural background, evolution is the accepted default position, like the heliocentric solar system, the spherical earth, the germ theory of disease… not to believe in those things is slightly nutty. I think a British author would have chosen a different title, but then a British author might not have seen the necessity to write it. I don’t mean to impugn Prof CC’s choice of title, since I have no knowledge (other than gleaned from comments on this website) of the cultural milieu of its target audience.

    Still, I too have reservations about ever using the word ‘true’, since it has so many varying interpretations – notably including the subjective ‘truths’ of the cultural relativists (which flatly violate any rational notion of objective ‘truth’). I tend to agree with the 4th paragraph of Andy’s original comment. (Though I would demur on the actual existence of a transcendent reality.)

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 12, 2016 at 1:55 am | Permalink

      Oh dear… that was of course a reply to Andywaltonbolton/Prof CC’s discussion above.

      cr

    • Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      A different, less combative title … like _The Greatest Show On Earth_, perhaps?

      /@

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Well, that would do as a ‘for instance’. Or ‘How evolution works’ or ‘Why Evolution is Real’. I’m just exercising my personal distrust of ‘truth’.

        cr

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 14, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink

        😉

        If all authors had to take account of everyone’s pet semantic peeves, nothing would ever get published.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 14, 2016 at 3:14 am | Permalink

          (Still trying with a bad connection)

          Yeah, but I did say it was Prof CC’s prerogative. Surely I’m allowed to comment?

          (It may not be entirely irrelevant that when British books are published in the US the publishers often retitle them. Evidently publishers, at least, think that what suits one market may not uit another).

          cr

  23. gluonspring
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    I haven’t run the stats on these, but I’ll bet that happiness is negatively correlated with religiosity.

    Yes. Pearson correlation: -0.52

    I used all the available data from Pew website on the question of religious importance in order to include as many countries as possible, and I found the data download for Figure 2.2 of the World Happiness Report to be sure to include as many countries happiness data as possible.

    I also made a scatter plot of “Happiness Score” vs “Religion Is Very Important” percentage. The tinypic link is: http://i66.tinypic.com/21examr.jpg. The names of the countries and the linear regression line are shown.

    I might produce another plot that color codes the countries by economic model (communist, socalist, etc.) and/or their status in the former Soviet block, because clearly those factors are creating outliers. Similarly, Kuwait is an outlier in the religion=misery side of the graph.

    The correlation between wealth and religion is seems much more striking, however: Importance of Religion vs Wealth

    • Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:33 am | Permalink

      Thanks for doing all this analysis!

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 16, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

      Very cool! I’d love to see those other plots you mention, if you find the time.

      • gluonspring
        Posted January 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I’ll probably produce a cleaned up version of the plot this week some time, depending on how much of my real work I get done.


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