[FoRK] Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies

Stephen D. Williams sdw
Sat Nov 5 08:32:14 PST 2005



[20] The United States? deep social problems are all the more disturbing 
because the nation enjoys exceptional per capita wealth among the major 
western nations (Barro and McCleary; Kasman; PEW; UN Development 
Programme, 2000, 2004). Spending on health care is much higher as a 
portion of the GDP and per capita, by a factor of a third to two or 
more, than in any other developed democracy (UN Development Programme, 
2000, 2004). The U.S. is therefore the least efficient western nation in 
terms of converting wealth into cultural and physical health. 
Understanding the reasons for this failure is urgent, and doing so 
requires considering the degree to which cause versus effect is 
responsible for the observed correlations between social conditions and 
religiosity versus secularism. It is therefore hoped that this initial 
look at a subject of pressing importance will inspire more extensive 
research on the subject. Pressing questions include the reasons, whether 
theistic or non-theistic, that the exceptionally wealthy U.S. is so 
inefficient that it is experiencing a much higher degree of societal 
distress than are less religious, less wealthy prosperous democracies. 
Conversely, how do the latter achieve superior societal health while 
having little in the way of the religious values or institutions? There 
is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief 
versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying 
rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution 
south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth 
pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where 
societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution 
approach European norms (Aral and Holmes; Beeghley, Doyle, 2002). It is 
the responsibility of the research community to address controversial 
issues and provide the information that the citizens of democracies need 
to chart their future courses."

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