This is a topic that has been discussed by many theists and non-theist for many, many years. Theists assert that a society that lacks a religious structure will disintegrate into mass chaos, filled with crimes of every sort. They also claim that religious belief is the ONLY source of morality for human beings. Sam Harris is the latest non-theist to take up the debate regarding morality without god. (You can find the book here: www.samharris.org)
I personally find it difficult to believe that religion is the prescription for human morality. Take a small child, for example. Two toddlers are playing on a playground. A third toddler enters the picture and begins to bully one of the two. What is that other child's response going to be? Compassion. Intervention. A strong feeling that what is happening to his/her friend isn't right. What theological teaching instructed that toddler about fairness? How did they know that bullying is wrong? It is an instinctive feature of our humanity to know right from wrong. We are basically moral creatures. There are exceptions, I agree, however the general majority are moral. Let me share a very lengthy study from The Kripke Center at Creighton University. The goal of this study is stated as follows: "Theists often assert that popular belief in a creator is instrumental towards providing the moral, ethical and other foundations necessary for a healthy, cohesive society. Many also contend that widespread acceptance of evolution, and/or denial of a creator, is contrary to these goal."
So what were the results of this study? Let's take a quick look... The results listed below compare 'Theistic Nations' to 'Non-Theistic Nations'. The classifications are based on the generalized census figures.
1. Lower Crime Rates
Countries who are largely non-theistic have the lowest crime rates and are ranked among the safest places to live. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Japan, etc., are all secular countries that have incredibly low rates of crime. (For example: Japan--15.2, USA--21.1) Inversely the more religious a country is, the more the population suffers from thefts, rapes, assaults, etc. Clearly being a religious country does not mean that your fellow citizens will be better behaved. Homicide is greatly increased in a religiously dominated society.
2. Lower Rates of Sexually Transmitted Disease
Secular nations offer more educational programs for children, confidential public health-care programs to treat sexually transmitted diseases for free, publicly advertised programs to educate the masses about sexually transmitted diseases, and free condoms for any and all. Religious countries view sex as sin and rather than offer numerous avenues for education and prevention, they rely on an abstinence based program. All it takes is a cursory glance at the statistics to see that the religious programs do not work.
3. Lower Rates of Teen Pregnancy
This goes hand-in-hand with the statements above. Logically speaking, if teens do not have the proper understanding of sexuality and safe sex, then the rates of pregnancies will sky-rocket. "Sociologist Brad Wilcox reports, evangelical Protestant teens have sex at slightly earlier ages on average than their non-religious peers (respectively, 16.38 years old versus 16.52 years old)." This is due, in part, to the demonization of teen pregnancy and sex outside of marriage by the religious community.
4. Lower Abortion Rates
This is one of the hardest and most bitter pills that religious nations have to swallow, their policies of restricting the ability of women to receive an abortion, actually results in increased rates of abortion. Non-Theistic countries tend to provide free no-questions-asked abortions to any woman that wants one, and yet these countries have rates of abortions as much as 10-times lower than religious countries. Clearly, the religious desire to control the bodies of women and forcing them into having children, does not work in reducing abortion rates.
5. Citizens of Non-Religious Nations have Better Personal Relationships
The population of non-theistic nations tend to have better inter-personal relationships and are happier than theistic nations. Religious nations tend to demonize life-styles that don’t conform to their expectations, and tend to place women at a lower social status than men. This has resulted in higher rates of infidelity and higher divorce rates in religious countries, than in non-religious countries.
These are just a few of the results that were found in the Creighton University Study. If you'd like to read the full text, you can find it here: http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2005/2005-11.html
“The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health.” – Gregory S. Paul--Creighton University
In conclusion, morality can not be linked to an oppressive system of religious teaching. True morality comes from our humanity. As non-theists, we may actually be able to teach the theists a thing or two about right and wrong.
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